Fast-food workers strike for higher wages across the United States. The Service Employees International Union instrumented the biggest signal of job actions in America’s fast-food industry history this last Thursday. Close to 130 cities across the U.S. were affected by this one-day labor strike.
This year the Service Employees International Union, representing over 2 million workers in janitorial, healthcare, and other industries is providing significant economic and organization support in an attempt to gain higher pay for the workers. In the past, fast-food workers were difficult to unionize due to their high turnover rate.
Cheaper foods equal lower wages
Currently half of the fast-food workers who work on the front line taking orders and serving food are enrolled in one or more public welfare programs, costing U.S. taxpayers close to $7 billion per year. In some cases, workers can’t even afford the cheap foods their employers offer. For example, workers at McDonald's and Wal-Mart are paid barely enough to purchase cheap, low quality, less-nutritious food. Wal-Mart even went as far as to hold a food drive to aid its workers.
Raising the minimum wage
Raising the minimum wages for fast-food workers proposes a dichotomy. On one hand, McDonald’s and other fast-food outlets offer cheap food even the poorest people in America can afford. However, less-expensive food and low prices require lower wages.
Presently, the federal minimum wage in the U.S. is $7.25 in the majority of states. However, Washington, D.C. and nineteen states have minimum wages higher than the federal government’s hourly rate established in 2009. Advocacy groups are attempting to gain public support in raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 per-hour, as well
Support and opposition in raising the minimum wage
President Obama is in support of raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10. President Obama spoke of increasing the federal rate in a recent speech:
"I’m going to keep pushing until we get a higher minimum wage for hardworking Americans across the entire country. It will be good for our economy. It will be good for our families."
President Obama has had little success in his measure to increase the minimum wage---the Republicans have opposed the initiative. Additionally, the fast-food industry is also apprehensive in increasing minimum wage for workers. They claim the wage increase is not a "reasonable approach" and would be difficult. They also point out that most fast-food workers are young, they work part-time, and don't choose their jobs as a lifetime career.
You can read more of George Zapo’s articles about public, global, and environmental health at his website: georgezapo.com.