We’ve all seen at least one movie in which a sullen teen has to work a crappy fast food job for the summer, and it’s portrayed as a miserable experience that they can’t wait to escape. Some have thought back to similar experiences in high school and chuckled. Others, however, were reminded of the job that they will return to the next day. Only they’re not teenagers, seeing as the median age of employees in the fast food industry is over 28. What’s more, more than 25 percent of these people have at least one child to feed via this laughable teenage job. Not so funny anymore, huh?
Employees in the fast food industry have decided that they deserve better. A nationwide fast food worker walkout is slated for Thursday, August 29. They are demanding a $15-per-hour living wage.
The strike is an expansion of a campaign that started in New York this past November when 200 fast food workers walked out on their jobs. It has since expanded to seven other cities—Chicago, Detroit, Flint, Kansas City, St. Louis, Milwaukee, and Seattle—over the course of the spring and summer. “The fast food restaurant industry is terrified that these [strikes] will spread to other cities,” Wall Street Journal editorial board member Steve Moore said in an interview last week on WSJ Live. It would seem that the industry has a reason to be scared. L.A. and Memphis have already been added to the list of cities for tomorrow’s walkout. Workers are spreading the word to other cities through LowPayIsNotOK.org, and tomorrow’s event is expected to be the largest strike ever to hit the fast food industry.
The timing is significant. August 28 marks the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. African Americans disproportionately work in fast food jobs in this country. The movement felt that the strike would mirror the $2 wage demands of the organizers in 1963. Adjusted for inflation, that demand would be $15.26 today.
Fast food is a $200 billion per year industry, yet most employed within the industry earn minimum wage or just above it. According to the New York Times, the nationwide median wage for fast food workers is $9.05. The industry leaders argue that these entry level jobs are a stepping stone to better opportunities, but according to a report from the National Employment Law Project, only 2.2 percent of all jobs in the entire industry are managerial.
“We are united in our belief that every job should pay workers enough to meet basic needs such as food and housing,” said Nancy Salgado, a single mother of two who has worked at McDonald’s in Chicago for 10 years and makes Illinois’ minimum wage of $8.25 an hour. “Our families, communities, and economy all depend on workers earning a living wage.”
If you work in the fast food industry, I urge you to check the strike website and follow the Low Pay Is Not OK strike kit that gives you step-by-step instructions on how to participate in the walkout tomorrow. Anyone else sympathetic to the cause should perhaps encourage friends and family to boycott fast food meals tomorrow. It’s time Ronald McDonald shared the wealth with the people that keep his chains moving.