Support today’s fast-food workers strike: Join a lunchtime rally near you

The scandal of the nation is that the poor and working classes are constantly squeezed to satisfy the greed of the super-wealthy.

You could say that as a nation, we seem to hate our poor, as much as we’re taught to slavishly feed the rich:

When Obama declares a pay freeze for federal workers, that’s actually a tax on federal workers. It comes to the same thing, and, of course, this is right at the time we say that we can’t raise taxes on the very rich.

And:

Having a market society automatically carries with it an undermining of solidarity. … [I]n the market system you have a choice: You can buy a Toyota or you can buy a Ford, but you can’t buy a subway because that’s not offered. Market systems don’t offer common goods; they offer private consumption.

We do indeed feed the rich; we feed them ourselves, our livelihoods and the product of our work. Unsurprisingly, they’re always hungry and never get their fill.

But times are changing, thanks to people like you, and people like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Alan Grayson. They’re calling it various names, this new aggressiveness, including Warren-style “economic populism,” but by any name the tide is turning. Click the links above to see how.

(I hope you’re noticing, by the way, that the money-leadership of the Democratic party is pushing back against this “populism“, and Warren is pushing hard against their pushback. Good. The cracks along this Dem-side class-war fissure are widening. Let’s make it a chasm.)

Not only are real progressives finally attempting to increase social insurance benefits — more on that later — but they’re also trying to increase the minimum wage to something like what it bought in the 1960s. (For more on that, check out the graph at the bottom of this post.)

Want to see wages rise in this country? You can help. We have to start somewhere. Let’s start with fast-food workers. The certainly deserve a raise, and there’s a lot of them. I’ll bet you met one just this week already.

Fast-food workers are striking nation-wide on Thursday, December 5

Fast-food workers in 100 cities are walking off the job:

Fast-food workers are poised to walk off the job in 100 cities Thursday, the latest action in a nationwide push for a $15-an-hour wage.

Organizers said Thursday’s one-day job action will be backed by protests in 100 other cities by social justice groups that support the fast-food workers’ demands.

Want to help? You can use your lunchtime to rally in support. To find your own lunchtime fast-food rally, click here. And smile as you show your support; you may be on the evening news. If so, good. You deserve to be in the news, and the wages of fast-food workers deserve the exposure.

Why increase the wages of fast-food workers?

If we want wages to rise in this country, we have to start somewhere, and if we can win once, we can win again. We’re starting with fast-food workers for a number of reasons, and Richard Eskow has put together a great cheat-sheet — “12 Fast Facts About Thursday’s Fast-Food Strike” — to show what they are. Here’s a few (my emphasis and some reparagraphing):

12 Fast Facts About Thursday’s Fast-Food Strike

This Thursday, December 5, workers at fast-food restaurants around the country will be striking for higher pay and better working conditions. Their primary demand is an increase in their base hourly wages to $15 an hour.

Here are 12 things you should know about Thursday’s action.

1. If wages had kept pace with productivity gains, the minimum wage would be over $16 an hour.

Corporate profits have soared. Workers are producing more, but they’re not sharing in the rewards.

Productivity and the minimum wage generally increased at the same rate from 1947 to 1969, during this country’s postwar boom years. Using a conservative benchmark, economists Dean Baker and Will Kimball determined that the minimum wage would be $16.54 today if it had continued to keep pace with productivity.

The strikers are asking for $15 an hour. (Source: Baker and Kimball, Center for Economic and Policy Research)

2. The average fast food worker makes $8.69 an hour.

Many jobs pay at or near the minimum wage, which is $7.25 per hour. And an estimated 87 percent of fast food workers receive no health benefits. (Source: UC Berkeley Labor Center)

3. The CEO of McDonald’s Corporation makes $13.8 million per year.

That’s a 237 percent pay increase over last year, when he was paid a “mere” $4.1 million. Presumably health benefits are also included. (Source: USA Today)

Did you catch the dollars in that McDonald CEO pay increase? In one year, from $4.1 million to $13.8 million — more than triple. Out of whose pockets did that money come? And whose wage increases did he steal to get it?

A black-backed jackal and friend

A black-backed jackal and friend

By the way, true story, there’s a passel of people like that running any big-revenue company — not just the CEO, but the CIO, CFO, CMFO, COO, the VP of This and That. The top ten people or so all get the same sweet deal, the same skim off the profit pool. They just get a little less of it than the alpha predator in the pack.

If you’re reminded of jackals and prey, there’s a reason.

Raising fast-food worker wages saves your money too

Two more from the article, and then I’ll let you read the rest. These two are a pair — feel free to do the math:

4. McDonald’s cost the American taxpayer an estimated $1.2 billion in public assistance per year. …

5. McDonald’s made $1.5 billion in profits last quarter. …

Get the picture? You pay at the counter, and you pay again at tax time. Fast-food giants — and their big money CEO types — get 20% of their yearly profit by putting their workers on your payroll too.

The rest of the article is just as good, and Eskow as always is a clear and easy read, as you can see from the clips above. Do click through.

Who are fast-food workers?

Fast food workers are no longer just the iconic image of the high school kid flipping burgers. They’re adults. And they’re parents with kids to feed. Sam Stein tweets an illustrative paragraph from a recent NYT story:

fast-food-workers

The minimum wage story in this country

Our big-money CEO class really is shameless. As Eskow noted above, profits have soared, the CEO skim of profits has soared, and wages are flat or falling. This is true of all wages below the top, but it’s especially true of minimum wages. In the 1960s, the minimum wage was enough to keep a family of three out of poverty. No more. Today, the minimum wage won’t keep a family of two out of poverty.

Here’s a handy graph:

Minimum wage and the poverty level

Minimum wage and the poverty level

This is what you’re fighting for. You’re fighting for your own wages, by fighting in solidarity for everyone’s wages. We can only win one fight at the time, but the people behind this effort aren’t just fighting for fast-food workers. They want good wages for us all. We just have to start somewhere, and given the publicity around the burger-and-fries industry this year, fast-food workers are a great place to start. Your turn can’t come if no one’s turn comes.

Or as the writer I quoted at start of this piece said:

If you care about other people, that’s now a very dangerous idea. If you care about other people, you might try to organize to undermine power and authority. That’s not going to happen if you care only about yourself. … [I]t’s actually highly authoritarian, but that doctrine is extremely important for power systems as a way of atomizing and undermining the public.

That’s why unions had the slogan, “solidarity” … And that’s what really counts: solidarity, mutual aid, care for one another and so on. And it’s really important for power systems to undermine that ideologically, so huge efforts go into it.

Don’t let them split us. Stay solid, friends. We’ve been winning lately, on many fronts. We can win this too.

In solidarity,

GP

To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States. Click here for more. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius and Facebook.

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  • shimi

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  • pappyvet

    Actually , that is just an excuse. Convenient to obscene profits but an excuse none the less.
    Profit is more important than the folks that toil hard to earn the rich more bread and butter

    People earning minimum wage will be competing to buy limited supplies of fine wine, Picasso paintings, fast sports cars, and several large luxurious homes? Minimum wages stay stagnant. Price of food goes up. Natural gas, coal, iron ore, copper, platinum, gold, corn, sugar, coffee, soybeans, potash and the list goes on , have all gone up and the federal minimum wage hasn’t been raised since 2009, and since 1980 it has
    risen by less than inflation.Record profits continue to go up however. The problem is simple greed.

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    Problem with #3 is, unlike many other sensible nations, we don’t consider our national election day to be a holiday, and people are generally not granted time off to vote. If you’re making minimum wage, and have to work that day, you can’t afford to be standing in the Republican-generated multi-hour-long lines. Poor people are also more likely to simply not have the ability to get to their polling place. Someone living below the poverty line is also significantly more likely to not have the appropriate identification in those Republicans states where they intentionally made it harder for low income people to vote, with every specific intention of preventing your #3 from being an effective option.

    The main issue with #2 is that the cost of living varies so widely across the country. Someone making minimum wage in Manhattan vs someone making minimum wage in rural Texas are going to get vastly different mileage for their money. There needs to be a federal minimum based around the general poverty rate, and then individual states need to tack on an additional amount based upon the consumer price index. There are endless numbers of economists that study that kind of thing, so it isn’t like the data isn’t readily available to come up with an equitable plan. Someone just has to want to do it.

    #1 is the easy one. The large corporations that hire the most minimum wage workers, like Wal-Mart and McDonald’s would barely see even a tiny dent in their billions of dollars in profit if they paid all of their ground-level employees double. They would only barely even notice if they also gave every employee health benefits. We need to calculate just how much government is subsidizing those companies to pay their employees so little, and start increasing their taxes accordingly. You want to keep your workers in poverty, you pay more in taxes to help fill the social black hole you’re creating. The gargantuan loopholes with executive compensation are a completely separate discussion, but not unrelated.

  • benb

    1. “The CEO of McDonald’s makes 13.8 milllion/yr…” Personally, I think McDonald’s is gonna make a ton of money regardless of the CEO. That being the case, his compensation ought to be justifiably rational or the IRS ought to take a hard, long look at what’s going on. It’s got to be good business or it’s something other than merit, like winning the lottery or a gift.

    2. Can’t we index the Minimum Wage? Regardless of the level or the circumstance, neither Republicans nor Democrats ought to be able to make a Talking Point about it. To me the difficult question is …what’s the appropropriate Minimum Wage? That’s an arguable question but certainly not one that needs to be murkified by inflation.

    3. Who’s earning the Minimum Wage. Oh, yeah. I think this a direct result of Bad Policy by our representatives. If someone earning the Mininum Wage -is trying to support his/her family then something is really, really wrong. It may be the case that it’s time to fire one’s representatives in Congress. Everyone stuck in an ugly minimum wage job should be registered and should vote. Make it known that if your life sucks, their life will suck. Make it known at every election-EVERY SINGLE TIME. Your vote may be one in a million but their vote is one in a few hundred. The simple test is…it my life better, materially, than when the Clown in Office took Office?

  • Just_AC

    you have to look at minimum wage in the larger sense – again, go ahead and look at the graph of buying power. There needs to be made changes somewhere else than simply raising wages – history has shown that doesn’t work

  • Just_AC

    I can’t help but think of Anne Hathaway as Selena Kyle in the last Batman movie whispering into Bruce Wayne’s ears : “There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, ’cause when it hits, you’re all going to wonder how you ever
    thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.”

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    In the back of my mind I think: violence is coming.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    I’m going to polish up my SEIU button and have Amazon drone it to the nearest WAL*MART.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Remember when Obozo was going to walk a mile in a worker’s shoes. –Never happened, he was too attached to his Gucci loafers.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Therefor, why bother with a living wage. Is that it? What a bunch of libertarian sophistry. ppppffffttt

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    One strategy should be to destroy the myth that the current Democratic party is the party of the people. A good start would be to destroy the myth of the Clintons, a pair of neo-liberal jackals that are anything but supportive of regular working Americans.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Well… (1) I think the last time I ate fast food was when we were moving to our new house and had nothing set up for cooking, and (2) couldn’t have it today if I wanted (which I don’t) because we’re snowed in.

    But yes: These massively profitable companies — fast food chains, Walmart and other retailers, and many other exploitative businesses — are literally leeching off the rest of us.

    Two things would serve as a massive stimulus to this economy: Raising the minimum wage significantly (I’d say $15/hr should be the target number). And expanding/increasing Social Security benefits.

  • pappyvet

    I understand your post and the intricacies of the issue quite well. And it does not detract from the facts or comments that I stated. At the advent of the computer revolution which in a very large part started in our country , there were not millions of already trained workers in foreign countries waiting to work in the industry. If there had been it would have been the most remarkable feat of precognitive training the world has ever known. And it is not just the information tech jobs that have been outsourced.
    This reality took years to develop. That we are now in a catch22 is obvious.

  • Just_AC

    I really think that this is more of a complex issue than you are thinking of – I have some background in computing, etc and I do believe that there IS a shortage of good american programmers coming up the ranks The Pi computer was developed in part because, well take a look at the site – http://www.raspberrypi.org/about. There is a program from http://www.codeacademy.com to teach youngsters (or anyone) how to code for free, with lessons every week. On an anecdotal note, there was an immigrant from India a few years ago that needed to hire something like 8000 programmers in michigan , couldn’t find enough, and went back to India and hired 30000 for the same cost. I think with the modern worldwide interconnectivity in telecommuting that programming is something that is easier done remoting in than, say, milking a cow. Of course, there are some advantages to being local and that is what needs to be addressed, along with developing of something that doesn’t exist yet a point of pride of americans

    Another thing to look at, in terms of foreign worker VISA hiring, is – have you read some of the hiring advertising? The employer will do one and a half column ad to hire a $10.00 an hour worker. Why? so they can pick and choose who they end up hiring.

  • Monoceros Forth

    Oh, yeah. There’s no real idea of “charity” involved in this sort of talk, not in any meaningful sense. Saying that the job of helping the impoverished is something to be left churches or any other non-governmental organizations is just another way of saying, “Not in my backyard”–that is to say, let someone else deal with the problem and leave me out of it completely.

    That’s not the whole story though. Now let stress, before I go on, that I don’t think much of Pope Francis’s declarations; they’re mere words coming from the titular head of what is, despite its spiritual pretensions, basically just another nation-state interested chiefly in preserving what’s left of its power and influence in the world. If the Roman Church actually manages to do some good along the way that’s just an unexpected bonus. Yet these “mere words” have provoked a violent and visceral response from the American right. Rush Limbaugh’s saying the Pope is a dangerous Marxist. Why? Nothing that Pope Francis says will have any direct bearing on Limbaugh or on any other right-wing schmuck who laments about every penny of MA TAX DOLLAHS that goes to the undeserving poors. Even if Limbaugh were Catholic (I’ve got no idea what his religious prepossessions are) it still wouldn’t matter because no Catholic I’ve ever known really cared much at all what the Pope or any other high mucky-muck in the Church hierarchy said.

    What angers Limbaugh and all the fine folks at Fox is the very idea of charity. If you really and genuinely believe that anyone without money is the scum of the earth and deserves to be punished for the sin of being poor then it doesn’t matter that Pope Francis is just making a speech that will have no real effect on anyone or anything. The Pope’s high-flown words won’t cost Limbaugh a dime yet they still infuriate him because they dare to acknowledge that poor people aren’t vermin to be ground into the dirt.

  • pappyvet

    The computer revolution which could have been the second coming of the U.S. economy never arrived.
    And the outsourcing of U.S. jobs has become a bigger threat to the U.S. than terrorism ever dreamt of.
    Thank you NAFTA. the US economy has only been able to create jobs in domestic services-the hallmark of a third world labor force.
    Foxconn — China’s largest private employer and the manufacturer of an estimated 40%of the world’s consumer electronic devices — pays its assembly workers about 18 dollars a day and houses them in dormitories.

    Here is a list compiled by the Lou Dobbs people of U.S. companies that use foreign labor instead of our citizens. http://www.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/lou.dobbs.tonight/popups/exporting.america/content.html#m
    There are by my count , 129 companies just in “A” and B” lists alone and yes the lists go all the way through “Z”
    The standing argument is that there are not enough “trained” people in the U.S. to handle the work.
    Really ? So all of those workers[ millions of them], just popped into existence ? Not enough engineers here? Why would there be?

  • GaiusPublius

    Agree, Naja. And worse. “Their kind of ‘charity'” usually goes to the City Opera Foundation, or the My-Name-Here City Center.

    Very few charitable types give more to others than they give to their own egos, or their own “legacies.”

    GP

  • Just_AC

    While I believe that Minimum wage workers should make more money, my major concern is what does it mean in buying power. If you look at this graph from the bureau of labor statistics shown at CNN, you can see that the best buying power a minimum age worker had was in 1968.

    You look closer at the graph and you will see a common thread. Minimum wage goes up and the buying power increases – then the price of living goes up (due in part of the minimum wage increase) and the average worker’s buying power falls back downward

  • maria

    Let me get this straight. Unemployed people go out looking for work but all they can find is a job in a fast-food place. But because the Republican majority in the House won’t raise the minimum wage, these fast-food workers average $8.46 a hour. And because the fast-food corporations want to avoid any requirements for providing things like healthcare insurance, they limit those workers to under 30 hours a week, with them having sole responsibility for setting those hours and retaining the right to change the days and times of work at will. So when the workers don’t earn enough to support their families, the fast-food corporations tell them to apply for public assistance and food stamps. But then the same House Republicans who refuse to raise the minimum wage vote to cut public assistance and food stamps, telling these workers this is an incentive for them to go out and get a job. Its a vicious circle.

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    Isn’t that really the problem with their kind of “charity”? There’s always strings attached, and only people they think deserving should get it. If they think you’re just lazy, or too brown, or not quite American enough, well… you can go to hell.

  • perljammer

    IRS regulations allow corporations to deduct employee salary and bonuses. However, there is a $1 million limit on salary deductions, but no limit on performance bonus deductions. This really doesn’t qualify as a loophole being exploited by an evil corporation in a way not intended by the IRS; it’s the IRS saying, “Hey, if you want to be able to deduct all your executive compensation, do it this way.”

  • Bill_Perdue

    Thanks GP. The Walmart Black Friday actions were a huge success. “The protest was one of hundreds of Black Friday actions organized by OUR Walmart, a United Food and Commercial Workers-backed group of
    Wal-Mart workers—including Rozier, Bowers and Harris—that has been putting on
    strikes, protests, and direct actions at Wal-Mart for over a year in support of
    better wages, benefits and conditions. The first wave of strikes hit in October of
    2012, and on Black Friday of that year, some
    400 workers reportedly went on strike at stores around the country.
    http://inthesetimes.com/article/15938/black_friday_protests_embolden_wal_mart_workers/

    The worker led self organizing efforts of Big Box, fast food and other sectors of the working class are going to change the fact of the US and the labor movement as much as similar effort by the CIO did 80 years ago. They are also going to split the labor movement from bureaucrats in league with management and the Democrats from those fighting to organize the unorganized and achieve political independence of the boss parties.

    Republicans in Congress want to keep the pathetically low minimum wage and Democrats want to increase it to $10.10. That, along with their joint and separate union busting efforts and their pigheaded refusal to do anything serious about massive long term unemployment and lowered wages and benefits, those taking low wage jobs and those who can’t even find low wage jobs.

  • ArthurH

    You missed one way we taxpayers support McDonald’s. An article in the Progressive Populist noted that McDonald’s has altered the way they pay executives so that a good chunk of it is in “bonus pay” for meeting corporate goals. And under current tax laws, McDonald’s can write off bonus pay as a deduction on their corporate taxes.

  • Monoceros Forth

    Got to love it.

    RIGHT-WINGER: Liberals want to steal my moment and give it to the government so they can give handouts to poor people!

    SANE PERSON: Don’t you have any compassion?

    RIGHT-WINGER: That’s what churches are for. They do a much better job of helping the poor than some fat government bureaucracy.

    POPE FRANCIS: We should help poor people.

    RIGHT-WINGER: @#%! Communist!

  • nicho

    Interesting. I heard about this on Spanish National Radio this morning, which I listen to before I get out of bed. Then, I checked my usual list of US newspaper websites — big and small. Not a single word in any of them. Why don’t people take to the streets? This is why. The corporatist media will just ignore you or marginalize you. This should be top-of-the-page news on every US news site. Journalism in the US is dead.

    Meanwhile, Fox News does a major hit piece on the pope.

    http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/12/04/pope-francis-is-catholic-churchs-obama-god-help-us/

    I’m not a huge fan of the pope, but this is just awful. The guy who wrote it is one sick dude.

  • Drew2u

    I’d love to join, but the closest fast food place is 20+ miles away, close to the nearest Walmart.
    As far as I’ve seen, there hasn’t been any protesting at either type of facility.
    I think I have a union button somewhere I could wear while visiting either of those places, though!

  • Cletus

    Hate to say it, but this whole minimum wage argument just gets in the way of the real problem – the loss of core jobs that pay a living wage. No one was ever expected to raise a family as a cashier at Mickey D’s. Instead, we should be protesting at the Capitol against the obstructionist rethuglicans and their do-nothing Congress and failure to work on job creation and building the economy.

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