Demonstrators outside a McDonald’s restaurant in New York in May. Fast-food workers seeking higher wages plan new strikes and demonstrations this week. Caption by the New York Times. Photo Credit: Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters
Tuesday, September 2, 2014 || By Michael Romain
Fast food workers in the Chicago area and more than 100 cities across the country plan to engage in acts of civil disobedience on Thursday in their fight for a $15/hour minimum wage, it was announced on Labor Day.
The workers, who represent some of the largest fast food restaurant chains in the country — McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell among the most prominent — will be joined by home-care workers as they stage sit-ins and protests at establishments.
So far, it isn’t know whether or not the protesters have targeted any restaurants in Maywood or the surrounding area. Calls to Fast Food Forward and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73, the organizations leading the protests, went unanswered.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mean hourly wage for the more than 3 million food preparation and serving workers in the country was about $9 in 2013. A 2013 analysis of BLS data by Mother Jones estimated that, since 1968, the real value of the $7.25 federal minimum wage has fallen by 22 percent. Moreover, between 1960 and 2013, average income of the top 1 percent of earners in the United States rose by more than 270 percent, while the average income of the bottom 90 percent of earners in the country rose by only 22 percent. The minimum wage in Illinois is $8.25 an hour.
According to the BLS, less than 2 percent of fast food workers are unionized, a reality that many workers, economists and union leaders believe is at least partly responsible for the workers’ low pay in contrast to the profits of their employers (see chart below).
State Senator Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood) has been a staunch proponent of raising the state’s minimum wage from $8.25 an hour to $10.65 an hour, which would make it the highest in the nation.
“If you work 40 hours – or more – per week, you should be able to keep a roof over your head and food on the table without government assistance,” Lightford said in a statement this year. “The minimum wage needs to be a living wage.”
Lightford noted that, contrary to a much-touted conservative talking point, most minimum wage earners aren’t youth working in starter jobs to earn enough money as they transition to more permanent careers. They’re adults who often have other mouths to feed.
“Contrary to common perception, the majority of people paid the minimum wage are not teenagers — 84.2% of minimum wage earners are adults over the age of 20. And although minorities are overrepresented at 41.3% of minimum wage earners, the majority of people trying to survive on the minimum wage are white,” she said.
“People come to me and say this is a Chicago issue or that raising the minimum wage will drive businesses out of this state,” Lightford said. “It isn’t, and it won’t.” VFP
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
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