Monday, August 12, 2013

The Fast-Food Strikers Are Fighting for All of Us

Richard Eskow
Huffington Post

Fast food workers have been conducting one-day strikes for better wages and working conditions in several American cities. They've also been doing much more than that: They're shown the entire country real leadership. They're fighting for all of us, and their fight is our fight.

We can choose to see that, or we can ignore this struggle and continue our slow economic decline. It's up to us.

Follow the Money

Workers at McDonald's, Popeye's, Taco Bell, and Long John Silver, most of whom earn the minimum wage of $7.25, are asking for an increase to $15 per hour. That's exactly what they should do. It robs workers of their dignity and their rights -- "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," remember? -- to ask for anything less than a living wage.

And the current minimum wage is not a living wage.

In fact, if the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation, it would be more than $16 today. These fast-food workers have pitched their wage request exactly right.

What's more, corporations like McDonald's can easily afford it. McDonald's makes a perfectly acceptable profit in Australia, where the minimum wage is $14.50 and workers just negotiated a15 percent raise. Its profit margins are very high -19.82 percent in 2012, compared with the consumer services industry average of 4.9 percent- which means that greed, not the desire for a decent return, is why it underpays its workers.

Similarly, Yum! Foods, which owns Taco Bell, is a $12 billion company. AFC Enterprises, which owns Popeye's, has and extremely high gross profit margin of 71.2 percent. (Where the money goes after that, we're not sure; its net margins slightly lag behind its industry, but are nevertheless very good -- and much better than the overall consumer services industry.)

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