Sunday, May 17, 2015

Fast Food Workers Ain't Lovin It

Connie Bennett (a grandmother) has worked at McDonald’s for eight years. During that time she says she has received only one pay raise, and still makes just a nickel per hour over the minimum wage. She says she needs to work 6 days a week and pick up every shift she can just to get close to full-time hours — but that, even then, it's still not enough. She says her take-home pay averages $206 per week, and over half of that goes to rent alone.

Louise Marie Rantzau wrote at Reuters: "I work for McDonald’s in Denmark, where an agreement between our union and the company guarantees that workers older than 18 are paid at least $21 an hour. Employees younger than 18 make at least $15 — meaning teenagers working at McDonald’s in Denmark make more than two times what many adults in America earn working at the Golden Arches. Under our union’s agreement with McDonald’s I receive paid sick leave, get overtime pay, guaranteed hours and at least two days off a week. At least 10 percent of the staff in any given restaurant must work at least 30 hours a week."

Politifact had reported that Danish McDonalds restaurants did indeed pay the average full-time worker about $46,700 that year — and that the average annual pay for food service counter attendants for all companies (and not just McDonald’s) was over $41,000 — or about $20 an hour. They also noted that the latest McDonald’s union contract shows the lowest hourly rate is $20.70USD (and anyone who works after 6 p.m. or on Sundays is paid more).

Typically, when the pay scale at McDonald’s in Europe comes up, the most common rebuttal is that people there pay higher taxes. That’s accurate, but while wages are more than double what they are in the United States, taxes are not. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the average tax burden in Denmark is 38.2 percent, while in America, it is 31.3 percent (which, by the way, is a greater percentage of their incomes than what the very wealthy in the U.S. pay usually pay.)

So in Europe, although taxes may be about 20% higher, most people (if given the choice) would accept a 20 percent hike in taxes in exchange for making 50% more in wages.

Last year Rantzau met had fast-food workers in NYC and marched through Midtown Manhattan demanding a fair wage. While there, she met a woman named Jessica Davis who works at a McDonald’s in Chicago who has two daughters — one 4 years old and the other 4 months old. After working four years at McDonald’s, she made $8.98 an hour and has no stable work schedule.

Rantzau noted, "Many of the U.S. workers I met make less than $9 an hour. And unlike in Denmark, where most fast-food workers are young people looking to make extra money while in school, the vast majority of U.S. fast-food workers are adults trying to support their families."

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American fast food worker makes about $9.20 an hour, compared to the $20.70 paid in Denmark. And all across Europe, and not just for fast-food workers, the minimum wage is also much higher than it is the U.S. (which is supposed to be the richest country on the planet). One reason might be because the CEOs in the U.S. are paid higher than anywhere else in the world.

American fast-food workers aren't even asking for the same average pay of $20 an hour as those in Europe. They're only asking for $15 an hour. But Republicans don't even want to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, keeping it at $7.25 an hour, while they are raking in $174,000 a year with generous benefits from the taxpayers (They don't even have to pay for their haircuts!)

And we're not even talking about the excessive pay-packages of the executives who run these global fast-food multinational corporations, those who force their employees to use government assistance just to survive.

Most jobs in the fast-food industry can't be offshored, and the most a fast-food company might do is use tax inversion to move their headquarters overseas to avoid corporate taxes (like Burger King did). But if employees at companies like Burger King, McDonalds, (etc.) stand together and unionize and demand higher wages, these companies aren't going to close their doors and forgo U.S. profits. They make billions in profits every year, so it's not like they can't AFFORD to pay their workers more (so they won't be going bankrupt either).

Rick Paulas, at KCET in L.A., has written numerous pieces on the subject, and has noted how the media has downplayed the number of fast-food worker protests (and the number of workers participating) around the nation (link, link, link, link). But the media will report 24/7 on other mundane subjects — but they won't hammer home the fact that 50% of all American workers only net $28,000 (or LESS) a year — or that Obama and his corporate backers have been pushing very hard to get another horrid trade deal passed (Just the opposite: the media constantly runs their commercials pushing for the trade deal).

Many of the better-paying union manufacturing jobs have already been offshored to China (and elsewhere), leaving us with a "service economy" paying low wages in part-time jobs. We have to pay service and fast-workers what our manufacturing workers once earned (while they still can, before robots take their jobs too). Raising their wages and raising the minimum wage will boost the economy with more demand, contribute more to the tax base, and allow the government to invest in things like infrastructure.

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