Fast-food workers across the country say they are planning to strike on Thursday in an effort to press chains like Wendy’s and McDonald’s to raise their hourly wage to $15. Currently, the federal minimum wage is set at $7.25.
The protest, galvanized by the organizations Fast Food Forward and Fight for 15, is also backed by the Service Employees International Union. Fast-food workers in more than 50 cities participated in a similar strike this past August. This week, protests are scheduled in 100 U.S. cities, and more religious and community groups, such as US Action and United Students Against Sweatshops, are expected to join in.
According to Fast Food Forward’s Facebook page, “We are uniting for $15 and our right to form a union without interference because we believe jobs should pay workers enough to afford food, clothing, and rent. Lifting wages will help lift the broader economy."
The National Restaurant Association does not share this view. It cautions that if fast food restaurants are pressured into such a substantial wage increase, they’ll be forced to hire less workers in favor of more cost-efficient automation.
The push for higher wages is happening beyond the fast food industry. Protesters demanding a minimum annual salary of $25,000 for full-time Walmart employees have also been agitating of late.
The reason for the protests is clear enough: wages remain flat even through the recovery. In an op-ed over the weekend, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman pointed out that “despite the lingering effects of the financial crisis, America is a much richer country than it was 40 years ago. But the inflation-adjusted wages of nonsupervisory workers in retail trade — who weren’t particularly well paid to begin with — have fallen almost 30 percent since 1973.”
It’s a dramatically different world now. The workers faces an uphill battle, summed up in the words of a man packing up his car next to a Wal-Mart protest. "I have no qualms with Walmart,” he said. “They create jobs."
Do you think fast-food and other retail workers should receive a $15 hourly wage? Tell us in the comments or in a blog post.