About Minimum Wage and Today's Strikes at Fast-Food Chains


In a Daily Beast column yesterday, I wrote about a labor action planned for today in which protesters show up outside fast-food outlets and clamor for a $15 minimum wage (the current federal minimum wage is $7.25). Events are planned for 100 or more cities and some have already taken place.

Here are some things to think about:

  • Fewer than 3 percent of all workers in the United States make the minimum wage. The percentage drops further if you're talking about full-time employees.
  • 77 percent of minimum wage earners belong to households above the poverty line.
  • 51 percent of minimum wage earners are 24 years or younger. Of the minimum wage earners over 24, less than a quarter are below the poverty line and 62 percent live in households that are at or above 150 percent of the poverty line.
  • Even economists who question whether hiking the minimum wage causes significant unemployment for low-skilled workers tend to agree that doubling wages will reduce jobs.
  • A recent New York Times story titled "Life on $7.25 an Hour" centered on a man who had a job paying $13 an hour and who owned a $500,000 house.
  • The protests are organized by groups affiliated with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and inlcude calls for unionizing fast-food workers along with the demand to double the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

As I write in the Beast piece, none of this is to minimize the difficulties faced by many minimum wage earners and fast-food workers. But most minimum wage earners are not supporting families and in fact, most move up from the minimum wage with their first year on the job. As important, doubling wages isn't feasible from either a political or an economic angle. The whole program reeks of cynicism coming from the SEIU, which has a history of organizing workers in high-turnover, low-skilled industries and then failing to deliver on contracts that radically improve things for its members.

Read the full Beast story here.