On Thursday, Dec. 5 fast food workers in over 100 cities are planning are going on strike to demand $15 an hour and the right to form a union. RSVP HERE.
According to a Gallup poll 76% of Americans support raising the minimum wage up to $9 an hour
But is this enough? Is $15 too much?
When you look at the way wages, productivity and profits have changed over the years the answer looks like $15 is a good starting point for fair wages.
The minimum wage peaked in 1968 when it was the equivalent of $10.52, but it has since declined due to inflation and legislative inaction. That number is now a popular starting point for current wage bills.
However, inflation is just one part of the story. Productivity has skyrocketed since 1968 with people doing more work than ever. If wages had kept up with productivity gains than the minimum wage would be $21.72.
Another thing to consider is how much it actually costs to live in the United States.
According to research by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the current minimum wage puts many families in Pittsburgh at, or very near, poverty wages. Raising the minimum wage would bring many out of poverty, but at $15 and above many families would be making a living wage.
Looking at the history of the minimum wage and the cost of living it looks very reasonable to ask for up to $15. But can companies actually afford it?
Places like France or Australia have a $12 to $15 minimum wage compared to the $7 in the US. McDonald’s is profitable there. In Australia customers only pay between 7 and 70 cents more for a Big Mac than in America.
McDonald’s made $8.5 Billion in operating income last year. Doubling salaries of it’s employees would add another $3 Billion to expenses still making $5.5 Billion in income without ever raising prices.
Unlike, McDonald’s there are fast food companies that pay much closer to a reasonable living wage and still make money.
In-and-Out burger, a chain not yet in Pittsburgh is able to support higher wages and benefits for it’s workers. According to glassdoor.com the lowest-paid jobs at In-N-Out average above $10/hour, with some non-management jobs paying more than $13/hour.
A last thing to consider is that, since many Fast food places pay so little that workers need to supplement their income with government assistance just to get by. In that way taxpayers are paying extra to McDonald’s even if they don’t buy a Big Mac.
According to CNN report, McDonald’s helps it’s workers get into food stamps. Taxpayers may be paying up to $7 billion a year for aide to fast food workers. McDonald’s alone may be responsible for $1.2 Billion of that.
Considering the cost of living, the decline in minimum wage from its peak despite productivity gains, the taxpayer cost of low wages, and the ability of fast food companies to make it higher wages work a $15 an hour wage for hard working people in fast food is not only reasonable but necessary.
If you agree, please come out and stand with fast food workers on Thursday, December 5th