Workers at McDonald’s, Burger King, and comparable fast food joints walked out of stores across the country on Monday in an effort to lobby for a living wage of $15 an hour, arguing that the federal minimum wage of $7.25 isn’t nearly enough for employees to support themselves and their families. The demonstrations are part of a larger strategy of staging daylong events to raise awareness rather than launching a full-scale strike nationwide.
The arguments on both sides are pretty standard: workers and labor unions like the SEIU point to high profits and whopping executive salaries; higher-ups and economists say that a living wage will simply encourage automation and cut jobs for part-time, low-skilled workers like teenagers. There’s no national effort to raise the minimum wage just yet, but the New York protests did enjoy the support of liberal Democratic Congressman Jerrold Nadler, who took the time to stop by a downtown Manhattan Burger King and give a short speech.
The strikes come just a few weeks after McDonald’s caught flack for a model budget in which it assumed its employees had a second job, paid $600 a month in rent, and had no child care costs. Even worse, a recent study by a University of Kansas researcher found that raising both hourly wages and executive pay would raise McDonald’s menu costs by just 67 cents an item, while raising just hourly wages would have almost no effect at all. Awkward.