Media outlets are calling it the largest fast food worker strike in U.S. history. Starting Monday, hundreds of low-wage workers walked out of McDonald’s and other chain eateries in Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Flint, Mich. and Kansas City, Mo., demanding living wages so they can afford rent, shoes and healthy food.
(Photo credit: Denis Bocquet / Flickr)
Salon first reported on the strikes when they reared up last fall. The walkouts backed by the Service Employees International Union and supporters shared demands for a raise to $15 an hour and the freedom to assemble a union without repercussions from management.
Some of the stories the news site shared are pretty jarring, accounts of adults with families scraping by on abysmal pay.
“I might be doing the work of three people” due to under-staffing, McDonald’s employee 30-year-old Kareem Starks told Salon reporter Josh Eidelson after a recent rally, adding that he has to support two kids and pay rent on an hourly wage of $7.25.
Starks is one of millions in the fast food industry, where only 2.2 percent of workers are managerial or can expect some sort of professional advancement, though it makes up nearly one-third of the U.S. economy, according to the National Employment Law Project.
“Front-line jobs in the fast food industry — including cooks, cashiers, delivery workers, and other non- managerial positions — rank among the lowest-paying occupations in the U.S. economy,” NELP writes. “In response to growing criticism, industry spokespersons have defended low wages for front-line fast food workers by arguing that these jobs serve as stepping stones to higher-paying managerial positions, as well as to opportunities to eventually own and operate a fast food franchise.”
That’s a bunch of bunk, the organization says.
“These claims, however, are not supported by the fact,” the NELP fact sheet continues. “Managerial positions account for only a tiny fraction of jobs in the fast food industry, and opportunities for franchise ownership are even fewer. Moreover, the substantial financial resources required to open a fast food franchise make entrepreneurship an unrealistic option for front-line fast food workers earning poverty-level wages.”
Studies have shown that paying workers higher wages actually boosts productivity, lessens turnover and galvanizes the economy.
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