Fast Food Workers Striking This Week

Photo:ari/Flickr/Creative Commons License

When I spoke to food worker rights activist and author Saru Jayaraman following the last round of fast food strikes in August, there was a hint of escalation at the end of the interview. The general feeling from the strikes' organizers was that, no matter how great of a turnout it was -- and, really, it was, with thousands of workers across 60 cities taking part in the mass walk-out -- that was just the start. As Saru put it, "[I]t's just the beginning. The NRA [National Restaurant Association] is going to be put even more on the defensive in the years to come. It's a big deal because it's the beginning of something, not because it's the climax."

And this Thursday, we get one step closer to the climax.

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As is the case with every sequel, the general hope is that it's more than what came before. While we've all been burned enough to realize this rarely happens with movie sequels -- I'm still reeling over the destruction of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise -- these strikes have been moving in one direction since the beginning: Bigger and better. What started out as a small walk-out with 200 workers in New York last November has grown into thousands of workers in over 100 cities walking off the job. At this rate, it will be a global phenomenon by next year.

The strikes, once again, will be held outside of McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, Taco Bell, and, well, just about any place you can get a big helping of beef for less than a dollar. (In-N-Out workers, meanwhile, won't be participating for obvious reasons.) The goal, once again, will be to get corporation honchos to pony up $15 an hour to their workers.

While the number's more of a rallying cry than a legitimate request -- it's more than double the current minimum wage and nearly $4 over the current "living wage for one adult" standard in costly L.A. county -- it's not as if the CEOs can't find the money to pay somewhere near that. Especially in light of recent revelations regarding how fast food execs have been exploiting a tax loophole for years.

In short: A few decades ago, Congress put a $1 million cap on tax-deductible income for executive pay, meaning anything over that has to go through the proper IRS-collecting channels. Except, well, there's a big loophole called "performance pay." Explains the Salon article:



Lots of complex financial machinations there, but the main gist is that fast food CEOs have been able to earn an extra, non-taxable $183 million over the past two years because of the exploitation of this loophole.

$15 an hour suddenly doesn't seem all that crazy of a request.

Thusly, whatever happens this Thursday, however large the walk-out numbers get, don't expect it to be the end. So says the president of the Service Employees International Union, Mary Kay Henry:



Meanwhile, what can you, the non-food worker, do? If you're feeling in the activist mood, go ahead and grab yourself some poster board, take a Sharpie to it, and head on over to your nearest fast food strike on Thursday. Barring that, signing the MoveOn.org petition is a worthwhile effort, especially since the petition's wording relays just how these low wages affect us all:



Keep that cost in mind the next time you're on a road trip and looking for a quick bite to eat. Don't settle for the biggest, most colorful billboard near your exit. Something else worthwhile, and not part of the problem, is a quick Yelp search away.

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