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The protesters aren’t going away.
It started late last year in Manhattan and eventually spread to Chicago, Washington, D.C., St. Louis, Kansas City, Mo., and Detroit, according to The New York Times. Fast-food workers were striking, demanding $15-an-hour pay.
Thursday was another big day of protest with the same demand, this time in nearly 60 cities, USA Today says. It fell between the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Labor Day.
“Hold them burgers, hold them fries, make our wages super-size,” protesting fast-food workers chanted in Memphis, says The Associated Press.
The jump to a $15 wage would certainly be super-sized. The federal minimum is just $7.25, and while President Obama called for a hike to $9 an hour in his State of the Union speech this year, Congress hasn’t moved on it. The national median pay for fast-food workers is already $9.05 an hour, the Times says.
Some make less than that, even after years of work. The Guardian shared a column by Willietta Dukes, a North Carolina single mother who worked two fast-food jobs to raise her two sons. “I’ve never walked off a job before. I don’t consider myself an activist, and I’ve never been involved with politics,” she wrote. “I’ve worked in fast food for 15 years, and I can’t even afford my own rent payments.” She’s striking now.
Dukes says she worked at Church’s Chicken for 12 years and went from $6.30 to about $8 an hour. She now makes less than that at Burger King, and her hours have been cut back.
What would a wage increase mean to customers? Restaurant groups argue that protesters pointing to big corporate profits are ignoring the fact that most restaurants are owned by franchisees operating on much smaller margins, the Los Angeles Times says. (We wonder: Could corporate headquarters take a smaller cut from franchisees, allowing them to pay better?)
There’s research to support both sides of the argument. “The National Restaurant Association found that when the minimum wage was last increased in 2007, nearly 60 percent of eateries raised prices, more than four in 10 reduced employee hours and more than a quarter postponed plans to hire new employees,” the LA Times says. Other research we’ve written about suggests that a boost to $15 an hour would raise the price of a Big Mac between 68 cents and $1.28.
What’s your take? Do fast-food workers deserve to be paid $15 an hour, or at least more than they are now? (What about other low-wage workers, like those in retail?) Would you be willing to pay a few bucks more per meal if you knew it virtually doubled someone’s pay? Let us know what you think on our Facebook page.