In honor of Labor Day, I am compelled by today’s events to share the best coverage of the growing nationwide fast food worker strike:
- For a pretty comprehensive round up, HuffPo Business was updating all day long with most major articles and tweets from many cities.
- From earlier this month, “The Pay Is Too Damn Low,” The New Yorker: “Over the past three decades, the U.S. economy has done a poor job of creating good middle-class jobs; five of the six fastest-growing job categories today pay less than the median wage. That’s why low-wage workers are older and better educated than ever. Today, low-wage workers provide forty-six per cent of their family’s income. It is that change which is driving the demand for higher pay.”
- More on that point, “More Than a Quarter of Fast-Food Workers Are Raising a Child,” The Atlantic
(A family striking together at Wendy’s in Boston)
- A pessimistic, but perhaps realistic view of the movement’s challenges: Why the Fast-Food Worker Strikes Are Doomed, The Atlantic
- There is a lot of talk about how much a Big Mac would cost if workers made $15, and it’s not really that easy to calculate because a lot goes into setting prices. However, this article does give some good quantifiable data, so if you like to look at charts and graphs, this is a good one: “How Fast Food Workers Are Falling Behind, In One Chart,” Business Insider
- But perhaps the most convincing voices aren’t of all the people talking about the working poor, but rather, those trying to live on poverty wages telling their own stories. Here are two: “I’m Striking Because I Can Barely Afford To Eat On My McDonald’s Salary,” Business Insider and “How I live on fast-food wages,”CNN Money.
And finally, for my own connection to this story. I’ve written about it in scattered pieces before, and its certainly no secret that I grew up poor. For a portion of my childhood my family struggled to live on minimum (or near minimum) wage. But the circumstances of my childhood poverty aren’t what pundits would have you believe.
Both of my parents went to college, and for several years before I was born and in very early in my life they lived a life pretty close to the classic picture of the American Dream: my dad worked a job with good benefits and a good salary, they owned their home, my mom even stayed at home with her kids.
Then they got divorced, and my mom, suddenly thrust into the role of sole provider for two very young children, was forced to work at whatever job she could find to try to support her family. So as a 30-something college-educated mother, she took a low-wage retail store (and a Walmart-like discount store).
She eventually managed to go back to school (while working full time and raising two kids on her own), and has been working as a nurse for about 20 years, but there was a dark stretch of many years where we were one of the thousands (if not millions) of families struggling to survive on the poverty wages and lack of benefits that the wealthiest country in the world saddles some of their hardest working citizens with.
Minimum wage workers are just kids flipping burgers to earn money to take their sweetheart to the soda fountain, they are hard working Americans struggling to keep their heads above water.
Workers rights are basic human rights.