Fast Food Strikes Across the Country Call for Higher Wages

Wage, hour and overtime lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have written extensively about the recent strikes taking place throughout the country by fast food employees. Workers from restaurants like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Taco Bell are striking in efforts to obtain higher wages and union protection.

The fast food strikes began in the spring of 2013 in New York City, one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in, when fast food employees could not even afford meals at their own restaurants. Thousands of employees participated in the first walk-outs and strikes in the city, which quickly spread to Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Seattle, and other metropolitan areas.

The minimum wage in the United States is set at $7.25 – barely enough to pay the bills and put food on the table. It was last raised in 2009, and President Obama is pushing to boost it in the ensuing years to $9. Despite working full-time, many fast food employees have to stay in homeless shelters or apply for federal assistance. Workers are now asking for living wages – $15 dollars an hour – to be able to buy basic goods, such as furniture for their families.

The most recent strike in Chicago involved 60 retailers and 400 low-wage employees, from companies such as Potbelly, Forever 21, and even Nordstrom Rack. At least one McDonald’s in the city amended its employment standards after the strike; now, workers at that location no longer have to pay for the food they mistakenly burn on the job.

One employee of Nordstrom Rack received a raise of $1.50 after striking, along with a promotion to coat specialist. Labor organizers at the Jason’s Deli on Dearborn and Lake claim they also received raises in the wake of last month’s strike. Another Forever 21 employee says she received an increase in hours. A Victoria’s Secret employee enjoyed a $2.26 raise after the strikes, though now he is hoping the company will revise its on-call policy so he can have a steadier schedule.

Organizers say the 2013 strikes are the largest ever by fast-food workers. Several hundred workers recently gathered at the Fifth Avenue McDonald’s in NYC, to voice their complaints about their wages and lack of union representation. One married employee is forced to share an apartment with her mother despite both her and her husband having full-time jobs.

On the other side of the picket line, executives from McDonald’s state that increasing wages would have a potentially negative impact on employment as well as for customers. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s living wage calculator, an unmarried adult would have to earn $10.48 and work full-time (40 hours a week) to constitute a living wage.

The average daily salary for a fast food CEO is about $25,000. The yearly salary of one of his workers (they are all male in the U.S.), is $11,000 – meaning that the CEO makes more than double the amount in one day than an employee makes in an entire year. Two thirds of fast food employees are adult women, trying to support a family, often alone.

The strike has now spread to just under ten cities in the U.S., and a recent article byABC News noted that the price for a Big Mac would increase by just 68 cents if the workers’ wages are increased to $15 an hour. The economist featured in the article estimated that the pay raise would increase the Big Mac from $3.99 to $4.67, a Big Mac meal from $5.69 to $6.66, and an item on the dollar menu to $1.17. Other estimates are lower, predicting the increase could be just five cents, with the remaining adjustments coming from more equal distribution of company revenues.

Wage, hour and overtime lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm will continue to report on the fast food wage struggle as it unfolds. If you or a loved one believes you are being cheated out of your deserved wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act, you have important legal rights, and may be entitled to significant compensation in back wages.