A coalition of national labor unions and community groups announced a national fast-food worker walk-out scheduled for August 29. This announcement follows a summer of protest, during which workers from across the country have protested against low-wages and unfair working conditions. Striking fast-food workers have cried foul over unpaid overtime, wage theft, and a lack of upward mobility. Nationally, these workers earn a median pay of $8.94/hr.
The planned walk-out is a precursor to Labor Day, a day our nation pauses to recognize the economic and social contributions of America’s workforce. And while some workers are doing exceptionally well, median pay for chief executives at the nation’s top corporations jumped 16 percent last year, low wage workers – the bottom 20 percent of the workforce – have seen their incomes fall 5 percent in the last seven years.
Low-wage workers are demanding a $15 minimum wage. Many pro-business advocates have made claims that such an increase would harm consumers and cause prices to skyrocket. In fact, Rep. Markwayne Mullen (R-OK) stated at a town hall meeting earlier this month that a $10 minimum wage would increase the price of a hamburger 438 percent. Such a statement is intended to startle consumers and turn the public against the idea of increased wages. A close examination of the claim, however, proves it to be false. In Australia, where the minimum wage is $16.88/hr., a Big Mac costs $4.94. Australia’s minimum wage is more than double America’s measly $7.25/ hr., and yet a Big Mac is only 74 cents more.
Social media outrage has fueled a renewed invigoration to increase wages and the mainstream media is paying attention. Earlier this week, a Seattle campaign announced their push for a city-wide $15/hr. minimum wage. As public sentiment turns against corporate business greed, the reality of higher wages – and perhaps living wages – for fast-food workers inches towards a reality.
On August 29, the nation will be tuned in and alert to the plight of America’s low-wage worker.