Thousands of fast food workers across the country went on strike this week and while their demands were met with applause from the labor movement, many conservatives went on the immediate attack.
Just days before the country celebrated Labor Day, the holiday brought to the table by the labor movement, fast food workers in 50 cities went on strike to demand higher wages and the ability to form a union without fear of discipline from their employer. The current minimum wage, and the wage many fast food workers earn, is $7.25 and hour. If a fast food worker puts in full-time hours, 40 hours per week, they will only earn just over $15,000 a year before taxes. While this number is low and has even been argued by President Obama to be increased, the demands by the fast food workers are for more than double. The workers on strike are asking for a starting point of $15 an hour which has caused many in the right-wing media to enter freak out mode.
During a recent broadcast of the Fox News show "The Five," co-host Eric Bolling argued that the strike by the fast food workers was putting "free market capitalism under attack" and that prices will be increased if the workers get their way.
"Free market capitalism under attack, watch! (video is shown of fast food workers striking) What that is, is 50 cities are participating in striking, fast food workers are striking. McDonalds, Wendys, Subway, Taco Bell etc etc. It's the largest our nation's history. The issues? They want $15 hour that's up from $7.25, minimum wage. There it is guys, that's the free market getting assaulted because prices will go up if they get there way."
A recent study by the National Employment Law Project notes that the average salary of a fast food worker is $8.94 per hour. The Economic Policy Institute confirms this report, stating that the average salary for a fast food worker in 2010 was just over $18,000 a year, which hit the federal poverty level for a family of three.
While many conservative economists, and the talking heads on Fox News, claim that a minimum wage increase would cause prices to increase and jobs to be lost, the counter argument holds much more water. According to the Center for American Progress, an increase in the minimum wage from its current $7.25 an hour to President Obama's proposed federal increase of $9 per hour would help stimulate the economy while the cost of products would only see a slight increase.
"There is no evidence to support the claim that a higher minimum wage will lead to less employment. Businesses can easily absorb a higher minimum wage—with a small price increase or a small reduction in already very high profits, for example. The argument that a higher minimum wage will be a job killer simply doesn't pass the sniff test of basic economic arithmetic, and is contradicted by reams of serious economic research.
An increase in the federal minimum wage from its current rate of $7.25 per hour to $9 per hour by the end of 2015 will raise hourly earnings for about 21 million people. These are—by definition—the lowest-paid workers in the economy. Their total earnings amounted to 1.6 percent of the entire economy in 2011, the most recent year for which data are available. Minimum-wage workers can expect an average increase in their annual earnings of 11.2 percent if President Obama’s proposal is enacted.
A very small price increase—stemming from businesses charging more for all goods and services in the economy—by 2015 will easily help pay for the solid wage increase of the lowest-paid American workers."
Though Eric Bolling and many conservatives would like to push the belief that a higher minimum wage will lead to job loses and increased prices, reality just doesn't prove their point.