12 Fast Facts About the Fast Food Strike

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This post first appeared on OurFuture.org.


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Demonstrators rally for better wages outside a McDonald's restaurant in New York, as part of a national protest, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013. Demonstrations planned in 100 cities are part of push by labor unions, worker advocacy groups and Democrats to raise the federal minimum wage of $7.25. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Workers at fast food restaurants around the country went on strike Thursday demanding 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.

Sixty-six 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)

Richard (RJ) Eskow is a well-known blogger and writer, a former Wall Street executive and a former musician. He has experience in health insurance and economics, occupational health, risk management, finance, and IT.
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