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By the time the next edition of The?News goes to print, history may yet have been made, as fast food workers walk out in a nationwide strike for higher wages and the right to form a union.
This won’t be the first fast food strike (they’ve been going on intermittently since?November 2012) and it hopefully won’t be the last, and I say that as someone who spent four years working in perhaps the lowest of the low paid sectors of our economy.
Unfortunately, there are multiple myths out there about fast food workers which will no doubt find their way onto the cable channels as these workers take a stand for higher pay – and it’s high time these ‘supersized’ myths were debunked.
Myth #1: Fast food workers are just a bunch of kids. Speaking from experience as someone who was hired at 18 and worked until I was 22, fast food places are less “teenagers trying to make a few extra bucks in the summer” and more “single mom trying to make ends meet.” Don’t just take my word for it, either – research by the Center for Economic and Policy Research shows that teenagers only represent 12 percent of the low-wage workforce, while more than 60 percent of low-wage workers are 25-64 years old.
Myth #2: Fast food companies can’t afford to pay higher wages. This one is a bold-faced lie repeated by folks who should know better.
McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson pulled in a whopping $13.8 million in 2012, a 237 percent pay increase from 2011, according to USA Today.
McDonald’s already pays its employees in Australia $14.50 an hour, and has agreed to raise wages 15 percent by 2017 in the land down under, according to a recent article in The Atlantic.
Apologists for low-wage employers claim companies like McDonald’s can’t possibly pay workers $15 an hour (a key demand of the strikers); they are living in an alternate universe where Australia apparently doesn’t exist.
Myth #3: Fast food workers don’t need unions. In addition to striking for higher wages, low-wage workers are striking for the right to form a union, the right to negotiate agreements with their bosses concerning wages, hours and benefits.
A lot of folks say that fast food workers don’t need this right because they can work out whatever differences they have with their managers on a one–on–one basis.
This is, of course, a fairy tale that assumes that employee and employer are on the same level – something that we all know isn’t true.
The only way that employers and employees can be on an equal footing is if employees have the right to form a union and negotiate their own conditions of work.
The next time you hear someone talk about how fast food workers are teenagers who don’t deserve decent pay, set ‘em straight.
The time has come for fast food
workers to strike while the fryer is hot.
Devin Griggs is president of the Murray State College Democrats.
Story by Devin Griggs, Opinion Editor