From New York to Los Angeles to St. Louis, members of the fast-food worker movement are achieving small victories and continuing to push their agenda nationally.
Last week, the Los Angeles City Council passed a $15 an hour minimum wage bill. Low-wage workers and fast-food employees praised the council for its actions, including Mary Carmen Farfan, 46, a Burger King worker from Los Angeles and member of Los Angeles’ Fight for $15.
“My oldest daughter is in college and I have three school-aged kids at home,” said Farfan in a statement. She currently makes $9 an hour and relies on food stamps to support her children. “My family is lucky because my husband also works. Even with two incomes, we struggle to pay our bills on time. A $15 minimum wage will mean that we can see a doctor when one of us is sick instead of waiting for hours at clinics or the emergency room. It will mean that I can help my daughter pay for her textbooks.”
But fast-food workers didn’t miss a beat after the news from Los Angeles and continued rallying outside of McDonald’s locations across the country. Workers showed solidarity with New York City and St. Louis fast-food employees who are on the brink of winning $15 minimum wage themselves.
St. Louis legislators introduced a bill Friday to raise the minimum wage to $15 and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held the first of several public hearings as the Wage Board considers increasing the state’s minimum wage to $15 as well.
With the majority of American job growth happening in low-wage, mostly fast-food gigs, studies have come out of the woodwork to explain what that means. According to a recent report by the National Employment Law Project, analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics and Economic Census data showed that fast-food employment in New York grew nearly 60 percent since 2000, with the largest fast-food chains in the state raking in a 14.5 percent increase in profits between 2010 and 2014. In that same time span, the actual wages of New York’s fast-food workers decreased by almost 4 percent.
Christine Owens, executive director of the NELP, said that the revenues these companies generate should reflect itself in the wages it pays those on the bottom of the corporate chain.
“Despite the billions of dollars in profits companies like McDonald’s rake in each year, fast-food workers nationally have seen their wages decline 5.5 percent over the last four years,” said Owens in a statement. “With sales revenues across the industry growing, it’s clear that workers’ wages are egregiously out of sync with the corporate profits they help grow and out of touch with what it takes to afford rent, groceries and gas in cities nationwide, from Los Angeles to St. Louis to New York City.”