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12 Fast Facts About Thursday’s Fast-Food Strike

December 6, 2013 by Common Dreams in Protests, Rich & Poor with 2 Comments

Richard Eskow, Common Dreams

This Thursday, December 5, workers at fast-food restaurants around the country will be striking for higher pay and better working conditions. Their primary demand is an increase in their base hourly wages to $15 an hour.

Here are 12 things you should know about Thursday’s action.

1. If wages had kept pace with productivity gains, the minimum wage would be over $16 an hour.

Corporate profits have soared. Workers are producing more, but they’re not sharing in the rewards.

Productivity and the minimum wage generally increased at the same rate from 1947 to 1969, during this country’s postwar boom years. Using a conservative benchmark, economists Dean Baker and Will Kimball determined that the minimum wage would be $16.54 today if it had continued to keep pace with productivity.

The strikers are asking for $15 an hour.

(Source: Baker and Kimball, Center for Economic and Policy Research)

2. The average fast food worker makes $8.69 an hour.

Many jobs pay at or near the minimum wage, which is $7.25 per hour. And an estimated 87 percent of fast food workers receive no health benefits.

(Source: UC Berkeley Labor Center)

3. The CEO of McDonald’s Corporation makes $13.8 million per year.

That’s a 237 percent pay increase over last year, when he was paid a “mere” $4.1 million. Presumably health benefits are also included.

(Source: USA Today)

4. McDonald’s cost the American taxpayer an estimated $1.2 billion in public assistance per year.

In other words, taxpayer money is subsidizing this large corporation’s profits – at the expense of American workers.

(Source: National Employment Law Project)

5. McDonald’s made $1.5 billion in profits last quarter.

That’s up 5 percent from the previous year.

(Source: McDonald’s Corporation)

6. The 10 largest fast food companies cost taxpayers an estimated $3.9 billion in government health assistance and $1.04 billion in food assistance.

Republicans are demanding cuts to government health and food programs. With all the talk of deficit reduction, it’s surprising that no one has pointed out that a great way to lower expenditures would be by ending these backdoor subsidies for highly profitable corporations.

(Source: UC Berkeley Labor Center)

7. These 10 companies earned $7.4 billion in profits last year.

They also paid out $7.7 billion in dividends. Meanwhile …

(Source: National Employment Law Project)

8. Fast food workers are more than twice as likely to be on public assistance.

25 percent of American workers receive some form of public assistance – which is a disturbing figure itself. For fast food workers that figure was 52 percent.

And it’s not just part-time work that’s causing the problem.  More than half of full-time fast food workers receive some form of public assistance.

(Sources: University of California, Berkeley/University of Illinois studyUC Berkeley Labor Center)

9. Most of the workers who would be affected by this wage change are adults.

We also hear that it’s not necessary to raise the minimum wage, especially for fast food workers, because most of them are “kids” working a few hours each week for pocket money. Think of this as the “malt shoppe” argument.

But it’s not true. Most low-wage workers are adults. Nationally, adults make up 88 percent of the workers who would receive a raise if the minimum wage were increased to $10.10 per hour. In locales as distinct as New York State and Albuquerque, New Mexico, that figure rises to 92 percent.

(Sources: US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, Fiscal Policy InstituteNew Mexico Voices for Children/Fiscal Policy Project)

10. Over 7 million children live in minimum-wage households.

And many of these workers are parents. Seven million children – nearly  one American child in ten – feels the effects of low wages.

(Source: data from the National Women’s Law Center)

11. This strike is targeting large employers.

66 percent of low-wage workers are employed by organizations with 100 employees or more. Thursday’s strikers aren’t targeting mom-and-pop operations. They’re striking against some of America’s largest corporations.

How large? McDonald’s employs 707,850 people. Yum! Brands (better known as Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and KFC) employs 379,449 people. Altogether these 10 companies employ 2,251,956 people.

The workforce for these ten companies is greater than the populations of Nebraska, West Virginia, Idaho, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Montana, Delaware, South Dakota,  Alaska, North Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming, states which hold 28 seats in the United States Senate.  Shouldn’t these fast-food workers have a voice of some kind too?

(Sources: National Employment Law Project, US Census Bureau)

12. There’s probably a rally near you.

There’s an easy-to-use website to help you find one. There’s also an online workers’ strike kit, for fast food workers who want to take action.

(Source: Low Pay Is Not OK)

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  1. PrimeDecember 22, 2013 at 8:48 pmReply

    Some additional info:
    1. Workers aren’t paid according to average productivity, they’re paid according to marginal productivity.
    Also, the rise in productivity has largely come from white collar jobs, not the low-skilled jobs held by minimum wage earners.
    And this interesting observation:

    3. If the entire C-suite and all VP’s had their compensation divided eventy among all of McD’s hourly employees, how much extra would each of those employees receive? While it may be felt that such a high wage is not fair, it’s not as if a lower pay for McD’s executives would mean better pay for the workers.

    4. McD’s paid $1.32 billion in domestic income taxes.

    5. Profit is why McD’s exists at all.

    9. Playing fast & loose with the numbers there. It doesn’t make much sense trying to counter the fact that most minimum wage earners are young “kids” by arguing that the higher minimum wage will impact such a large number of adults. Well, yes, but that’s because the proposal is to raise the minimum wage so much higher than it is now. You could say that it would impact nearly all workers by raising the minimum wage to $1500/hr, but that doesn’t change the makeup of who makes minimum wage now.
    Also, many of those adults earning the low wages are under 25 and not even trying to support themselves. For those under 25, the average family income for is $66k. Sixty-eight percent live at 150% over the poverty line. Sixty percent are students. For those over 25, 62% live over 150% above the poverty line, and have an average family income of $42k.

    10. If the minimum wage goes to $15, most of those kids are going to feel the effect of having zero income. Those folk who manage to keep their jobs will experience a small benefit (they’re probably already earning close to it). Layoffs will be massive. Small businesses will be crushed. And all of those fast food workers will be replaced by robots in short order. Even more cashiers will be replaced by self-checkout lanes. Young black men in particular will face even fewer employment opportunities.

    Historically, minimum wage rises have come slowly, and usually hung pretty close to what the market was paying anyways. A small percentage would lose their jobs as a result (only tens of thousands) of the rise. Yet it hasn’t been terribly damaging to the economy overall. But a relatively quick jump from $7 to $15 would be devastating to millions.

    No matter how imperative it is that we find ways to improve the standard of living for low wage earners, raising minimum wage will always be A Bad Idea.

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