Fast Food Workers Plan Biggest Minimum Wage Strike Yet
On Thursday, fast food workers in 100 cities across the country are planning to hold their biggest strike yet as a coalition of service industry groups continues to push for a federal minimum wage increase from $7.25 to $15 per hour. The first such protests began in the fall of 2012 in New York City and spread to 58 cities by early 2013.
A true grassroots movement, the first minimum wage strike was in November of 2012 when 200 workers from 20 New York City restaurants staged the first ever walkout in the history of the fast food industry. Since then, the movement has spread like wildfire and strikes will hit cities like Pittsburgh, PA, Providence, R.I., and Charleston, S.C. for the first time this week.
Along with an increase to the minimum wage, protesters are demanding the right to unionize without retaliation from restaurants.
The restaurant industry has not bent since the strikes began, arguing that raising the minimum wage by that much would cause mass layoffs and slow hiring as restaurants would opt to move to more automated processes. The National Restaurant Association claims that there aren’t that many jobs that pay minimum wage and most of them are for people under 25.
On the other hand, the supporters point out that the average age of a fast food employee in 2013 is 29-years-old and more than 25 percent of minimum wage earners are raising kids.
In an op-ed in The New York Times, economist Paul Krugman notes that unlike manufacturing, increasing the minimum wage won’t cause jobs to disappear because 60 percent of all minimum wage work is in the fast food industry. He also added that 30 million workers in the US earn less than $10.10, the proposed federal minimum wage increase being considered in Congress.
The tide does seem to be changing. While a strong majority of Democrats support increasing the minimum wage, 57 percent of Republicans and 59 percent of conservatives also support raising the minimum wage. States like Massachusetts, California, New York, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington have all recently raised their minimum wage to $9 or more but the federal minimum wage remains at $7.25.
(Image courtesy of All-Nite Images)