Workers Fight for a Living Wage
Today marked the “biggest wave of job actions in the history of America’s fast-food industry,” as low-wage workers demanding a $15 per hour living wage walked off the job in 130 cities and related actions took place in dozens more.
Today’s striking workers included those at the McDonald’s inside the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum here in the nation’s capital, reports ThinkProgress:
One striking McDonald’s worker told ThinkProgress, “I’m hurting. I’m crying in my heart, my kids are starving. $8.25 is not enough to live in D.C., or anywhere for that matter, when the cost of living is constantly going up.” The $8.25 she makes at McDonald’s is not enough for her to support her two children. “I live in Capitol Hill and my rent is $1050. I work my butt off at work for a $300 check that I can’t even use to pay my rent. So, it’s saddening. It’s depressing, I’m seeing a therapist. It’s just a lot.”
The workers were joined by several Members of Congress, including Rep. Jan Schakowski (D-IL):
“We had a conversation last election about the makers and the takers, about the 1 percent and the 99 percent, and Barack Obama won that election,” she said. “They can be the makers if they have money in their pockets!”
Schakowski alludes to a very simple reality: it’s middle-class consumers, not the wealthy, who are America’s real job creators. Putting more money into the pockets of workers so they can buy things from businesses large and small creates a virtuous circle that grows our economy from the middle class out, not the top down.
As Pope Francis recently said, trickle-down economics has “never been confirmed by the facts.” Indeed, trickle-down economics has left decades of broken promises and growing income inequality in its wake. By contrast, raising the minimum wage would both help our economy and lift millions of the working poor out of poverty.
In addition to improving the lives of millions of families, raising the minimum wage would also reduce government spending on public assistance. Low-wage earners receive $243 BILLION in food stamps, Medicaid, and other public benefits every year. A recent report from the National Employment Law Project found that low wages at the top 10 largest fast food companies alone cost taxpayers $3.8 BILLION per year. By itself, McDonald’s, which recently advised its workers to find a second job and turn down the heat in order to make ends meet, is estimated to cost taxpayers $1.2 BILLION annually.
BOTTOM LINE: As President Obama said yesterday in his major speech on income inequality and upward mobility, “it’s well past the time to raise a minimum wage that in real terms right now is below where it was when Harry Truman was in office.”