Fast food workers took to the streets yesterday with chants such as “Hey, hey, ho, ho, poverty wages have got to go!” But who is paying more attention to the plight of the low wage worker? Lawmakers, or the customers buying cheap lattes and Big Macs?
“Low pay is not okay!” is the chant being heard across the nation by fast food workers demanding $15 per hour and the right to form labor unions without the threat of employer retaliation.
Friends in High Places
Fast food workers have a lot help and support from people in high places. John Boehner’s “party of ‘no'” has done a remarkable job of keeping Congress in gridlock at a time when the American worker is being bled dry. Politico reports than many Democrats in office are now supporting their working poor constituents the only way they can: by joining them in the streets.
Democratic Reps. Judy Chu and Barbara Lee of California, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, David Cicilline of Rhode Island, John Conyers of Michigan, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green of Texas, and Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, along with Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) are expected to join the workers, according to confirmed guest lists sent to organizers.
Having friends in high places does not necessarily correlate with having a lot of support. Bloomberg reports that in New York and Chicago, passersby and customers exhibited little interest or support of the plight of those who toil for poverty wages. McDonald’s issued a statement yesterday that all stores were open and operating normally, which translated into some workers bagging orders and taking payment while protesters chanted, as if the protest noise was nothing more than radio music playing in the background.
Bloomberg also mentions a Wendy’s in Manhattan at which people seemed to wait for the protesters to leave, then stormed into the store for lunch.
The Higher Cost of Higher Pay
Of course, there is the issue of how to generate revenue to cover the cost of raising wages from about $9 per hour to $15. There are two ways to do this: 1. raise prices, and 2. use a larger percentage of profits to pay employees.
Greed is the reason well-to-do franchise owners do not wish to portion more of the profits to the workers. Fear of losing business is a relatively reasonable reaction to the idea of raising prices, although there are plenty of examples in the history of business that demonstrate this is not as big a danger and some think.
USA Today brings up a salient point to those who are concerned about the higher cost of a burger.
They quote Fran Quigley, a clinical professor at Indiana University McKinney School of Law. She points out that taxpayers subsidize workers who earn too little by paying for food stamps and other programs in which so many low-wage workers must participate to survive. In addition, he states that profitable corporations employing low-wage workers often make enough money to increase those workers’ wages, if they wanted to.
It seems to come down to how the fast-food consumer base wishes to support workers in the industry. They can pay a little more for their lunch, or pay more taxes into the welfare system.
Tell Us What You Think
Would you pay more for a burger if it meant living wages to the workers? Leave us a comment or join the conversation on Twitter.