By: Ivan Barić
On thursday, December 5th, the US fast-food workers organized a protest throughout the USA in order to raise an awareness and put pressure on policy makers because of their low salary. The main goal of the campaign is to raise the federal minimum wage from 7.25 $ per hour to 15.00 $ per hour.
It is important no notice that the fast-food industry is extremely difficult to unionize because of high turnover rate, but the labor union giant Service Employees International Union supported this protests, which were organized mainly by small organizations such as Fight for 15, Low Pay is Not OK and Fast Food Forward. The current minimum wage, set at 7.25 $, has not been changed since 2009, despite the inflation. Although the protesters want to raise the minimum wage to 15.00 $, that should be seen as a long-term goal rather than an immediate change. Most notable protests occured in Chicago, portrayed on a picture above, Washington, where McDonald’s workers walked off the job in order to participate in a protest, New York, Atlanta and Detroit. There were protests in the other cities as well, but they were not as big as the forementioned ones.
Despite all the protests, the industry claims that raising wages would force the restaurants to raise prices as well, which would mean making a lot of them unprofitable and drive them out of business. Scott DeFife, from the National Restaurant Association, said that “A $15 an hour minimum wage as a starting wage in the restaurant industry is just really not realistic in today’s economy”. The organization declared that the protest is a “campaign engineered by national labor groups”, and that “relatively few” restaurant employees have participated in them.
On the other hand, support for raising the minimum wage is growing: California, Connecticut and Rhode Island raised their minimum wages this year, and the President Barack Obama stated in recent economic policy speech that he is “going to keep pushing until we get a higher minimum wage for hardworking Americans across the entire country”.
Senate Democrat Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised a vote on this question by the end of the year, but the measure will probably be blocked in the House, due to the Republican leaders who oppose it.
The importance of this question among the youth can not be seen until one is introduced to the situation in the industry itself. Today’s fast-food worker is tipically over 20 years old and raising a child, although there are still a significant percentage of those who work as a fast-food workers in order to earn extra pocket money while going to college or high school. Furthermore, roughly 68 percent of the workers are prime providers in their families while 52 percent rely on at least one form of public assistance. Therefore, it is important to solve this problem without causing any more harm to the workers themselves and their families, since they are already on a verge to become big social problem of the society.
Anyone who wants to support the iniciative and help it, is invited to sign the petition on official Fight for 15 organization web page