Will Today Be the Fast Food Industry’s Biggest Worker Strike Ever?
The issue of poverty and a livable federal minimum wage has been thrust into spotlight recently, not just by President Barack Obama’s call to action but by a series of protests by minimum-wage workers. Employees at McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD), Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), Yum! Brands (NYSE:YUM), Sears (NASDAQ:SHLD), Wendy’s (NYSE:WEN), and others have walked off the job and taken to the streets on multiple occasions in protest, seeking higher wages, benefits, and a better work environment.
One of the largest protests to date is scheduled to take place Thursday in 50 cities across the U.S. The protests are being organized by a coalition of groups including Fast Food Forward, a “movement of NYC fast food workers to raise wages and gain rights at work.”
In nominal terms, the minimum wage has never been higher. Since 1938, the federal nominal statutory minimum wage has increased steadily, hitting $7.25 per hour in 2009. The problem with this wage is that someone working full time for $7.25 falls below the poverty threshold. Even at $9 per hour, the average hourly earnings of someone in the fast-food industry, workers take home about $18,500 per year.