Monday, September 2, 2013

Fast Feud: Would You Like Fries With That Labor Day Rant?

I've been reading a lot this Labor Day afternoon about the fast-food workers nationwide who are demanding better pay. A number of columns and op-ed pieces today smugly insist these folks should just stop complaining about their historically low wages and get back to work. Well, for those Dickensianly grumpy writers, I have a simple Labor Day message: stuff a Big Mac in your mouth!

What irks me even more than the ignorance of the facts in these opinion pieces is the lack of compassion among these "journalists" for hardworking Americans. A reminder: these are not freeloaders or welfare recipients we're talking about. These are Americans who work very hard, every day. And they should not be forced to live in poverty. Period. 

This is about fairness in the American workplace for allegedly entry-level workers. For the record, I don't support the protestors' request to be paid $15 an hour. That's probably too big a raise. But fast-food workers deserve better pay, at least $10 if not more. 

The median hourly wage for McDonald's employees is about $8, and many earn less. These men and women work only 24 hours a week on average, and this adds up to less than $11,000 a year. Are you kidding me?

And have you been to a McDonalds lately? These are not all teens on their first job. The majority of fast-food employees are adults, average age 28, and many are women. The average age of a female employee at McDonlald's is 32 - and a good percentage of these women are taking college classes and trying to improve themselves.

The argument about protecting franchise owners is misdirected. It is still the mother-ship's perogative and obligation to share more of its record profits to these franchises, and to charge franchise owners less for rent, operating costs, etc. The corporation can and should make it easier on the franchise owners who can then pay their workers more.

Here's what blows every argument against giving these workers a raise right out of the scolding french fry grease: McDonalds earned a reported $5.5 BILLION in profits in 2012! That’s a 27 percent increase in profits over five years. But that money is not going to the people who are on their feet working their asses off in these restaurant every day.

I’m all for profit, and I don't have a problem with executives making a lot of money. But how much is enough? Top execs not only at McDonald's but at companies across this country are making record salaries, while their workers are being paid wages that put them below the poverty line. The minimum wage hasn't kept up with inflation, but CEO pay has risen 725 percent over the last 30 years and 80 percent of all real income growth has gone to the richest 1 percent of Americans.

If you’re comfortable with that preposterous discrepancy, then you really don’t care about working Americans. It’s absurd that fast-food employees are making less now in today’s dollars than they made in 1963. If this is the liberal side of me talking, so be it.

Spend a few days in an inner-city McDonalds or Subway or Taco Bell and get to know the workers, as I did two years ago year for a story I was writing, and then I defy you to keep giving the same rant against these protesters you see on the news.

This is not about handouts, it's about fairness. If indeed corporations are people, you must include in that argument all people employed by that corporation, not just the suits. To those of you ranting against these fast-wood workers, I say this: if you give a damn about hardworking blue-collar Americans, it doesn't show.


  1. What really made this piece work for me (as somebody that worked 3 1/2 years at McDonald's as a teenager), is the fact that you agreed $15 hourly was to big a jump. I was at a party last night, and met a woman who runs a nursing facility, and these skilled nurses...and a driver the hospital has had for 28 years, make $11.75 an hour. So are correct in that and many of your points. Other writers were lazy, and just took one side or the other.
    I love reading your stuff.

  2. $15 an hour is a good start for a minimum wage. The next step could be to finally institute a maximum wage. Executives should not automatically make a lot of money. Their "expertise" is at best rarely useful in predicting future behaviors and at worst pridefully ignorant of the causes relevant to the success or failure of past initiatives. In a just universe, the people who clean the bathrooms at fast food restaurants would earn the highest salaries in the company.

  3. This is one more sorry chapter in the redistribution of wealth in this country...the rich become mega rich and the poor and middle class slip into poverty. This is shameful. There is no one I know who wouldn't gladly pay another 25 cents for a Big Mac, or whatever, to enable the workers to be paid a living wage. But better would be for the corporate execs to take a haircut on their obscene salaries and bonuses. Somewhere over the last 15-20 years our contry lost its way: the "haves" feel they are somehow entitled to having even more (more than anyone could even spend in a lifetime) and they put down the "have nots" as lazy, parasitic slugs who are feeding off the taxpayer. And corporate profits are obscenely high, at record levels. Exxon-Mobile made $41Billion in profits last the same time the US taxpayer is paying them subsidies to offset the expense of oil exploration! And they still rape us on gas prices. Huh? If that isn't welfare (corporate welfare), I don't know what is.

  4. These men and women work only 24 hours a week on