You Want Fries With That?
Today, thousands of fast food employees will be going on strike as part of the ongoing battle to raise the minimum wage for fast food workers around the country. Employees of Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Burger King, and even some from Macy’s, Sears, and Dollar Tree are currently or about to walk off their jobs in protest of their low wages. The minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour ($7.35 in some areas), with most fast food workers making somewhere between $8 and $9 an hour for their service. When working at those wages, especially with part-time employment, it is quite a challenge to pay bills and care for a family. They would like their wages to be raised to $15 an hour to properly compensate them for their work and to allow them to live comfortably.
The National Restaurant Association isn’t exactly showing support for these workers. They say that only 5% of restaurant employees are making minimum wage, half of that 5% is comprised of teenagers, 7 our of 10 of the 5% are under 25, and most of the 5% works part-time. These people seem to be working after school jobs or working to supplement the income they are earning elsewhere or that their spouse, partner, or parent earns. Outside of that 5%, you have people like Shaniqua Davis of New York who has worked at McDonald’s (and is currently unemployed) and unable to care for her child and pay the bills with the part-time, low paying wages she received. A friend of mine also showed me an article highlighting a young single woman with three kids who cannot make ends meet with her low wage. Call me cold-hearted, but it’s difficult to sympathize with people who aren’t even trying, like unemployed Davis, or who make bad decisions and end up with three kids to support by the age of 24. This is not proper justification to raise wages.
Ronald Ehrenberg, a professor of industrial and labor relations and economics at Cornell University, says that “because of the difficulty of getting jobs in general…for people with relatively modest education levels, you have a lot of people working in these companies who are trying to support a family based upon their earnings alone. That’s very, very difficult to do.” He and others want it to be known that these jobs are not just help by high school students trying to save up for a car, but by people with families to support and real bills to pay. These fast food and retail workers are tired of earning less than what they feel they are worth. The strike today will be the largest so far and they hope that it will bring real change. The few live interviews I’ve heard were from employees in management and lead positions in various fast food companies that feel they are being short-changed by multi-million/billion dollar corporations. And I do have to agree; management positions in retail and fast food are stressful, busy, and don’t provide proper compensation for the work that is done.
My first job was at Chick Fil-A making $5.15 an hour with an eventual raise to $5.35. I worked that job during my junior year of high school, switching to retail for $6 an hour during my senior year and during breaks at college. Eventually I moved to Shoe Carnival, making $7.25 an hour and moving to $8.50 while supporting myself, paying for my apartment and car, and taking care of all my bills. It was a challenge to make so little and still take care of myself, but I did it and always tried to do better. In all my jobs, low paying or otherwise, I took great care to be the best that I could be. It is what allowed me to upgrade every time I switched jobs and what allowed me to advance in companies while still there. At no point did I ever think that a minimum wage fast food or retail job was the best I could do. At no point did I feel that they owed me anything more than what they were giving me. Also, at no point did I take an offer for management because the wages were too low and I knew I could do better. Knowingly going into management when you know the wages are too low isn’t the fault of the company, it’s a decision you make on your own.
I understand and sympathize with the workers who aren’t making enough and who are struggling to pay their bills and survive. I’ve been there myself, making so little that I had to resort to doing things that were definitely beneath me to make due. I know how hard it can be and I’ve made it a point to never be in that position again. I’m just not so sure I support the idea of starting fry cooks and cashiers at $15 an hour. I come across people on almost a daily basis who do not do their job well enough to justify that amount of money. Yes, I do think that they should be compensated better, but I don’t agree that the minimum should be set so high. Now, if a system is proposed that allows employees to work up to that rate in a timely matter by advancing, doing more work, and taking on more responsibilities, I’ll be behind it 100%. Start at $8 per hour and step up your pay by learning more, doing more, and educating yourself. Ensure your employer knows your value so you’ll have a fantastic reference for a new job that you probably should start applying for.
Another friend of mine sent me an article that said President Obama’s plan to increase minimum wage to $9 an hour was still a far cry from what workers really deserve according to a study done in 2012 by the Center for Economic and Policy Research. It says that “the minimum wage should have reached $21.72 an hour in 2012 if it kept up with increases in worker productivity. While advancements in technology have increased the amount of goods and services that can be produced in a set amount of time, wages have remained relatively flat. Even if the minimum wage kept up with inflation since it peaked in real value in the late 1960s, low-wage workers should be earning a minimum of $10.52 an hour.”
It should be obvious to everyone that our current minimum wage is embarrassingly low. A bump to $9, as the President has proposed, would be a great start in helping these low paid employees and hopefully also reducing the amount of people receiving government assistance in order to get by. As far as the strike goes, I highly doubt that any employees of any company will get the results they are hoping for. They are expecting a miracle. By walking out of their jobs, they likely assume that the companies will see their value and up their compensation. But these companies will probably replace unhappy employees with eager new hires faster than they will bump the current employee wages up to $15 an hour. That amount is absurd and shouldn’t be considered, especially not for entry-level unskilled workers who drop frozen food in a deep fryer for a few hours a day.
The girl at Hardees who spoke in a fake British accent while taking my order doesn’t deserve $15 an hour. Neither does the cranky cashier at Wal-Mart who shot me a dirty look when I said hello, or the guy at Burger King who screwed up my order, or the woman at Long John Silvers who shorted me $7 worth of food. If you half ass your job, you deserve half of $15. Unskilled labor done poorly does not deserve a higher wage. As far as the rest of the employees go, the ones who take pride in their job and work to the best of their ability day in and day out, the ones who move up in the company and are working to give themselves a better future, they do deserve more and they should get it. I hope that these people are able to find some success in raising their wages since they have the work ethic to back up a justification for higher pay. That said, I’m not going to hold my breath for any kind of drastic change in our future.
Posted on August 29, 2013, in Food, Kids, Life, Money, News and tagged bills, burger king, chick fil a, fast food, mcdonalds, minimum wage, president obama, retail, strike, welfare, wendy's. Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.