A worker strike demanding higher minimum wages and the ability to unionize for fast food workers will take place tomorrow, December 4, stretching across over 160 cities. This will be the latest in a string of actions launched, following on the heels of a similar action in September.
Started in November of 2012 in NYC by a group called Fast Food Forward with a strike comprising 200 fast food workers, the movement has grown considerably in size and notoriety. Although their main targets include the Burger King, Wendy’s, and especially McDonald’s corporations, their focus has spread to all workers in the fast food industry.
Fast Food Forward seeks to highlight the struggle of America’s 3 million fast food workers who currently make an average of just $9.08 an hour by reporting on abuse, wage theft, and lack of representation in the industry while fighting to correct these injustices through public actions. Fast food workers comprise 9% of the total private workforce, yet 40% of fast food workers live in poverty according to a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute.
The group has had considerable influence on the larger national discussion on inequality, and members believe they had a strong hand influencing the recent decisions by Seattle and San Francisco to raise their minimum wages to $15 per hour, with many other cities planning or campaigning for similar wage hikes. Although unaffiliated, the recent strikes against Walmart launched by OUR Walmart have also adopted the $15/hour slogan as their own.
They have also found support in other communities, most notably finding an ally and official partnership with the SEIU (Service Employees International Union). Even President Obama referenced the movement during his Labor Day speech.
Critics of the movement state that the wage increases are unreasonable and would result in price inflation on the menu to the small margins on such items as the popular Dollar Menu. However, supporters counter with international examples, pointing to countries like Denmark where the minimum wage is up to $20 for the same positions, proving that such an arrangement can still be profitable.