12 Fast Facts About Thursday’s Fast-Food Strike

fast-food-meme-600Tomorrow, December 5, workers at fast-food restaurants around the country will be striking for higher pay and better working conditions. Their primary demand is an increase in their base hourly wages to $15 an hour.

Here are 12 things you should know about Thursday’s action.

1. If wages had kept pace with productivity gains, the minimum wage would be over $16 an hour.

Corporate profits have soared. Workers are producing more, but they’re not sharing in the rewards.

Productivity and the minimum wage generally increased at the same rate from 1947 to 1969, during this country’s postwar boom years. Using a conservative benchmark, economists Dean Baker and Will Kimball determined that the minimum wage would be $16.54 today if it had continued to keep pace with productivity.

The strikers are asking for $15 an hour.

(Source: Baker and Kimball, Center for Economic and Policy Research)

2. The average fast food worker makes $8.69 an hour.

Many jobs pay at or near the minimum wage, which is $7.25 per hour. And an estimated 87 percent of fast food workers receive no health benefits.

(Source: UC Berkeley Labor Center)

3. The CEO of McDonald’s Corporation makes $13.8 million per year.

That’s a 237 percent pay increase over last year, when he was paid a “mere” $4.1 million. Presumably health benefits are also included.

(Source: USA Today)

4. McDonald’s cost the American taxpayer an estimated $1.2 billion in public assistance per year.

In other words, taxpayer money is subsidizing this large corporation’s profits – at the expense of American workers.

(Source: National Employment Law Project)

5. McDonald’s made $1.5 billion in profits last quarter.

That’s up 5 percent from the previous year.

(Source: McDonald’s Corporation)

6. The 10 largest fast food companies cost taxpayers an estimated $3.9 billion in government health assistance and $1.04 billion in food assistance.

Republicans are demanding cuts to government health and food programs. With all the talk of deficit reduction, it’s surprising that no one has pointed out that a great way to lower expenditures would be by ending these backdoor subsidies for highly profitable corporations.

(Source: UC Berkeley Labor Center)

7. These 10 companies earned $7.4 billion in profits last year.

They also paid out $7.7 billion in dividends. Meanwhile …

(Source: National Employment Law Project)

8. Fast food workers are more than twice as likely to be on public assistance.

25 percent of American workers receive some form of public assistance – which is a disturbing figure itself. For fast food workers that figure was 52 percent.

And it’s not just part-time work that’s causing the problem.  More than half of full-time fast food workers receive some form of public assistance.

(Sources: University of California, Berkeley/University of Illinois studyUC Berkeley Labor Center)

9. Most of the workers who would be affected by this wage change are adults.

We also hear that it’s not necessary to raise the minimum wage, especially for fast food workers, because most of them are “kids” working a few hours each week for pocket money. Think of this as the “malt shoppe” argument.

But it’s not true. Most low-wage workers are adults. Nationally, adults make up 88 percent of the workers who would receive a raise if the minimum wage were increased to $10.10 per hour. In locales as distinct as New York State and Albuquerque, New Mexico, that figure rises to 92 percent.

(Sources: US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, Fiscal Policy InstituteNew Mexico Voices for Children/Fiscal Policy Project)

10. Over 7 million children live in minimum-wage households.

And many of these workers are parents. Seven million children – nearly  one American child in ten – feels the effects of low wages.

(Source: data from the National Women’s Law Center)

11. This strike is targeting large employers.

66 percent of low-wage workers are employed by organizations with 100 employees or more. Thursday’s strikers aren’t targeting mom-and-pop operations. They’re striking against some of America’s largest corporations.

How large? McDonald’s employs 707,850 people. Yum! Brands (better known as Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and KFC) employs 379,449 people. Altogether these 10 companies employ 2,251,956 people.

The workforce for these ten companies is greater than the populations of Nebraska, West Virginia, Idaho, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Montana, Delaware, South Dakota,  Alaska, North Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming, states which hold 28 seats in the United States Senate.  Shouldn’t these fast-food workers have a voice of some kind too?

(Sources: National Employment Law Project, US Census Bureau)

richard-eskow-17512. There’s probably a rally near you.

There’s an easy-to-use website to help you find one. There’s also an online workers’ strike kit, for fast food workers who want to take action.

(Source: Low Pay Is Not OK)

RJ Eskow
Huffington Post





  1. harry wood says

    Mr. Eskow,
    Your article is full of “facts” most of which to not reflect reality. How do you think the workforce in northern states and southern states compare? I have lived and traveled a lot in the US, Europe, and Asia. The neat thing about my travels is I always slept and stayed in the same places the locals did, no high raise hotels for me. This allowed me to live and talk with the native population, works in America also and yes I once spoke 5 languages. You should try it for educational reasons.
    Costs of goods differed even within cites of those regions. If you get the same wages in the US south east as in the US north east, you will put a lot of people on the unemployment rolls in the south. When I stayed in MA, the cost of a big Mac was near twice what it was in GA & SC. Having the same minimum wage in all 50 states will harm the poor states more than other states, that already have a higher minimum wage and higher wages in general.

    As you travel around, I doubt you eat at a MCD or YUM store often enough to be able to discuss the business. You may not know this, but many of the MCD stores are owned by a local person who has to follow corporate rules. When I ate a MCD in MA, I paid about 2.5 times the price in the south. The workers in MA were making much more than the worker in SC. So anyone can see that
    the cost of labor will cause the cost of goods to increase in ANY store, MCD,
    WMT, TGT,LOW, or CBRL,in the south. Many of these store owners are local people, some I know very well, and they would like to pay each good employee a better wage but can not because they can not increase their labor costs and still cover the cost of the product. You want to pay all employees, good and bad, the same wage. This is the bottom line of any business, it can not sell a product for more than the public is willing to spend and thus it can not pay a wage higher than the sales of the product will provide. Any one must add the cost of labor to the cost of product, add some profit and then sell it to the public. I have little faith in your economic or business skills. I confess you sound more like an organizer than a business manager.

  2. Ryder says

    The cover image to the article, on how one can’t live on $8, certainly misses
    the point. You’re not SUPPOSED to be living on the minimum wage.

    Many people don’t need high wages… they are young people, living at home and still in school. They just need job experience and free training from an employer willing to take a chance on them.

    You are NOT supposed to be flipping burgers as your CAREER. So don’t. Go get a real job.

    Only 0.5% of Americans are earning the Federal minimum wage. Half of a percent.

    The REAL minimum wage, is ZERO.

    Most economists believe that unemployment has RISEN because of the minimum wage… which is how one earns ZERO. And I guarantee you can’t live off of zero.

    Point by point

    1 – As productivity gains are not due to the kitchen workers at McDonalds, it makes no sense that their wages should increase. And by definition, paying the Federal minimum wage is, *by definition*, perfectly ok.

    2 – As the 1936 minimum wage, adjusted for inflation, was just over $4 an hour, I’d say they’re doing well.

    3 – MacDonalds provides employment to 1.8 Million people. This means he made LESS THAN $10 per employee per YEAR. It’s a drop in the bucket. If he gave ALL of his wages back to MacDonalds employees, they would have $9.20 more in there pocket every year. A few cups of coffee at Starbucks. Unions take a LOT more than that in dues every year.

    4- MacDonalds cost NOTHING in public assistance, and in fact keeps 1.8 million people employed. OUR decision to throw money at people, like women who can’t stop having babies, married or not, is the cause of assistance payments. If you are in your first job, flipping burgers… that’s not your career, and you have no business having babies… as you can’t support them. You have reproductive rights. Use them. Let’s not blame the employers of the irresponsible… and let’s not forget that we created the public assistance, and hand out money all day to illegals and drug addicts without a second look.

    5- Good for them!

    6 – Only a fool would believe that math. If you SHUT DOWN those 10 fast food places, then you’d have to believe that assistance spending would go DOWN by 5 Billion dollars… 20 million new unemployed, and you think assistance goes DOWN? You can just as easily see it the other way. MacDonalds is subsidizing OUR welfare system… we’d be paying a LOT more if MacDonalds didn’t offer these people work.

    7- Good for them!

    8- And as we expand the welfare state, even MORE will be on assistance… all completely irrespective of employers. All we have to do is change the assistance laws, so that you don’t get assistance if you are employed… and suddenly the number goes to zero, which proves the number has nothing to do with employers. It only shows that we CHOOSE to give assistance to people regardless of their employment status… and that’s OUR fault. WE choose to do that. Not MacDonalds.

    9- Most workers on minimum wage ARE adults because the minimum wage pushed kids OUT of the labor market. When the minimum wage has doubled in value, as it has since 1936… there is MUCH less incentive to hire kids. This is OUR fault for having a minimum wage in the first place, and for pushing it as high as we can. Kids need to learn skills, and need employers to take a chance on them, and spend a lot of unproductive time training them… the minimum wage is killing this, and hurting these kids that will soon enter the adult job market with NO skills… and guess where they end up? That’s right, MacDonalds. It’s far better to pay them MUCH less as youth, so that they can LEAVE MacDonalds by the time they are adults, and get real jobs.

    10 -See above. You have NO business having children as a minimum wage fast food worker. Use your reproductive rights. Use your time to improve your skills, and get your earnings up high enough to support you AND your children. This is what responsible people do. We can’t blame MacDonalds for the irresponsibility of young women who choose to have children they can’t afford.

    11- This strike is targeting those that employ the most, and the most unemployable workers.

    12 – If you are a young man or woman, under 18, that wants to learn some skills with free on-the-job training, I suggest you head to the fast food chains that need workers right now… I bet you’ll get your first job, and you’ll be paid far more than you’re really worth! That’s a great deal. Learn how to handle wages. Learn how to save! Open a checking account and learn how to keep track of it. Take on all of the responsibility you can, and if you’re sharp, prompt, and do well, you’ll be able to learn even more. Now you have a resume! Start looking for your next, better job.

    That’s how it’s supposed to be done. Don’t turn fast food into a career, and expect to feed a family… that’s just plain stupid.

    • common sense says

      You know what really grinds my gear…
      When a person mistakes US corporatism for capitalism. If McDonalds rakes in $1.5 billion in a quarter why should they receive $1.2 billion in aid each year? So the stock holders get bigger dividends while their employees still almost starve? Quite frankly if the CEO of McDonalds thinks his work deserves a 273% raise in a year then maybe he should prove his finesse with money it by offsetting it from the amount of free money he takes from the feds. Ignoring their banana republics in south america and the corporate imperialism there, McD offers substandard food that is for all intents and purposes a verifiable health risk and contributes to our ever mounting healthcare needs. If this is such a perfect example of capitalism then why dont we pull our aid from them, and remove laws that give them loopholes over smaller competition that they paid congress to put in place. If McDonalds crumbles because it cant depend on government funds then it crumbles, and im sure once there is a big niche left in the fast food industry we’d see plenty of small businesses pop up to fill in the gap. Maybe we’d see real capitalism here in the US for the first time in decades instead of this facade that your mistaking for the American Dream, and people wouldn’t be so goddamn fat.

      • Ryder says

        They don’t receive any aid at all, so far as I know. Read the article again carefully… The author is saying that the aid that is going to employees, is actually going to MacDonalds, which is nonsense.
        So far as I know, the CEO doesn’t receive a thin dime from he Feds. The author is pulling a Michael Moore on you, and carefully leading you to believe things that are not actually being said. It’s called deception… And ought to be beneath him.

        But you’re right, capitalism and “crony capitalism” are vastly different things.

        Why do you think that kids, living at home with mom and dad, who also happen to work at MacDonalds… are starving?

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