News & Commentary

November 13, 2014

This post is part of an ongoing of series on the fast food organizing movement. You can read all our Fast Food News here.

Following up on this week’s report issued by Good Jobs Nation (discussed in Today’s News & Commentary here), hundreds of low-wage service workers are currently on strike today in Washington D.C. to protest low wages. According to Al Jazeera America, the striking workers are demanding the government give preference during the contract bidding process to companies that pay their employees $15 per hour or more, offer benefits, and allow for collective bargaining. According to Politico’s “Morning Shift,” the workers, organized by Good Jobs Nation, are calling on President Obama to use his executive powers to make these changes immediately, with the hopes that there will be a ripple effect of wage increases in the private sector.

According to TIME, many restaurant analysts are in agreement that recent increases in the minimum wage across the nation will not have an impact on the price of your Big Mac. Instead, analysts believe that restaurants may do other things to counterbalance increased costs, such as reducing portion size or using less expensive ingredients. If prices were to rise, it would not be across the board, but instead would become reflective of the local market, thus making pricing for a multinational chain more variable from state to state or even city to city. However, the minimum wage’s impact on fast food may be negligible in comparison to increasing beef prices, which could lead to fewer beef options, skimpier combo meals, and price increases on the margins of the menu.

According to the New York Times, the Democratic Party’s inability to present a coherent plan to combat wage stagnation is at the core of the Party’s failure in last week’s midterm elections. As median, inflation-adjusted income continues to decline, the Times argues that the central question of the 2016 presidential campaign will be which party can present a solution to this wage slowdown. As for those potential solutions, there is no “silver-bullet,” but that long-term goals such as investment in infrastructure and education, along with tax code reform, a less wasteful healthcare, and increased bargaining power for workers could do the trick. In particular, the Times points out that nations with more educational progress over the last generation have experienced bigger income gains than the United States, and even within the United States, the gap between college graduates and all others continues to grow to record highs. In the short term, a tax cut for the middle class could be the best hope for increasing middle-class incomes, paired with offsetting increases on higher earners to assuage deficit concerns.

Les Leopold, director of the Labor Institute in New York, argues in the Huffington Post that corporations are engaging in systematic wage theft by withholding overtime, altering hours, delaying workers, or outright not paying wages. According to Leopold, citing the National Employment Law Project’s report “Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers, that wage theft is costing the average low-wage worker in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles an average of 15% of annual earnings – $2,634 out of annual earnings of $17,616 – due to workplace violations. If generalized to the nation, according to the Economic Policy Institute, wage theft is costing workers nationwide more than $50 billion per year.

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