Some employees of national retailers like Macy’s and Sears are expected to join in today’s protest, reports Reuters.
This is the first nationwide attempt at a walk-off. In November 2012, fast food workers in New York City staged a one-day protest. Similar walk-offs in Chicago, Kansas City and Detroit took place earlier this year.
Many fast food employees make a little more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, with the median being $8.94/hour per the National Employment Law Project. That comes out to around $18,000 per year for a full-time employee with 40 hours per week. Of course, many fast food employees don’t get 40 hours each week, so they take home even less.
“If you’re paying $7.35 an hour and employing someone for 20, 25 hours a week, which is the average here, they’re bringing home about $10,000 a year,” one organizer in St. Louis tells Reuters. “You can’t survive on that.”
Indeed, McDonald’s own employee budgeting calculator seems to assume that workers have multiple jobs.
Protesters are calling for an increase to $15/hour, which the fast food industry has countered is not a workable figure. The National Restaurant Association has tried to downplay the number of employees who earn bottom-dollar wages.
“Only five percent of restaurant employees earn the minimum wage and those that do are predominantly working part-time and half are teenagers,” said the Association’s executive vice president of policy and government affairs.
McDonald’s said it “aims to offer competitive pay and benefits to our employees.”