On Nov. 10, workers in Jackson participated in a nationwide “fast food strike” to demand higher wag- es and union rights.
The strike joined many others occurring nationwide and was or- ganized by the union-backed move- ment “Fight for $15.” Jackson joined 270 cities participating in the strikes that continue to gain momentum.
During the strikes, workers typically walk off their jobs for 24 hours and demand a $15-per-hour pay raise in addition to the right to organize a union.
Critics call the movement ridiculous. After all, why should anyone support a cause that allows people with no skills, expertise or education to earn roughly $29,000 a year? There are far more complex jobs that pay less. My first job (although it was only an internship) paid $10 per hour, and I was certainly expected to do far more labor-intensive work than the typical fast food employee.
And yet, in light of recent statistics, I cannot automatically dismiss the “Fight for $15” argument.
For one, the stock market is at a record high, but minimum wage pur- chasing power remains at a low that has been maintained over the past several years.
According to the movement, multi-million dollar corporations like McDonald’s are typically to blame. Bloomberg Business revealed in a report last year that fast food CEOs are some of the highest paid executives in America, with average compensations of $26.7 million in 2012. Fast food workers, with an average hourly wage of $9.09, are among the lowest paid. This disparity be- tween high and low classes seems to grow larger and larger with every passing year, and it won’t be soon before the middle class is likewise affected.
As the cost of living in most American cities continues to increase, is it really fair to expect fast food workers to get by on so little?
The National Employment Law Project revealed that over 26 per- cent of fast food workers are par- ents raising children. Is it right to deny them the basic needs of familial life over something as trivial as a disagreement over what encapsu- lates hard work?
Republicans in Congress continue to oppose social welfare programs that provide such people assistance. However, with their minimal wages, these people have no option but to rely on government charity. A common argument against raising the minimum wage is that these people should’ve worked harder to earn more–but if they spend their lives crippled by debt, how can they? It is a catch-22 that feeds itself and subsequently results in no opportunities for growth and no way out for anyone involved.
Ultimately, the implications are dire for all of us. If left unchecked, economic inequality and disparity among classes could undermine the entire industry and damage the overall economy.