Special orders may not upset management at Burger King, but worker demands for a livable wage infuriate honchos at corporate headquarters.
Thursday, many fast food workers won't take any orders at all as employees at Burger King, McDonald's and Taco Bell go on strike across the nation. The timing of the strike couldn't be any better. Monday is Labor Day, which is the celebration of the contributions that American workers have made to the world's greatest economy. On Wednesday, President Obama's speech at the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s"I Have a Dream" speech addressed the problems of economic injustice and inequality that burden fast food workers and American economic vitality.
The president addressed these problems on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial saying, "For over a decade, working Americans of all races have seen their wages and incomes stagnate, even as corporate profits soar, even as the pay of a fortunate few explodes." He went on to say, "Inequality has risen steadily risen over the decades. Upward mobility has become harder."
Many of the Americans that the president discussed Thursday work in the fast food industry. In 2011, McDonald's made $5.5 billion in profits. The average full time fast food worker makes the minimum wage, which translates into about $15,000 a year. Thousands of these workers are single parents who must support themselves and their children on a pittance.
Corporate leaders claim they will have to fire thousands of people if they raise wages for fast food workers. But will the companies fire these workers if it means longer waiting lines for customers? I don't think fast food executives will risk taking the fast out of fast food. And why can't a company making billions of dollars in profits every year pay its workers a livable wage, anyway? The answer is greed.
The workers want fast food moguls to pay employees $15 an hour, which would allow them to support their families without government financial assistance. Corporate greed rips off service workers and costs American taxpayers billions of dollars a year.
The stakes in this work stoppage are enormous. As high wage jobs like positions in the auto industry disappear, service jobs like the positions in fast food restaurants and retail stories proliferate. As you pass a fast food place today, remind yourself of how difficult it would be to support your family on $15,000 a year. And the next time you complain about welfare, remember how McDonald's and Burger King take advantage of government assistance programs by paying their workers a poverty wage.