You may have heard that fast food workers around the country staged impromptu strikes this past week, most visibly in New York City, to protest low wages and unfair labor practices.
Before you panic over where your next Egg McMuffin will come from, relax: These are really demonstrations rather than strikes, designed to garner media attention to the workers’ plight. In lieu of the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, they’re asking for $15. They won’t get $15, of course, but the entire exercise brings up the question of how anyone could be expected to live on $7.25 per hour in a major American city. Needless to say, the minimum wage positions don’t include health insurance or even paid sick days.
According to a study by Arnobio Morelix, a student at the University of Kansas, McDonald’s spent 17.1% of their revenue on salaries and benefits in 2012. As a former restaurant owner, I can tell you that most people in the industry would kill to have that number. If salaries doubled, the study estimates that a Big Mac would go up from $3.99 to $4.68, while the price of items on the Dollar Menu would increase to $1.17.
Would customers pay the new prices? You might not think so, but stop and consider who’s eating at McDonald’s. It’s mostly people who “don’t have the time to cook,” or who think they don’t, although they do have the time to drive to the nearest fast food joint and sit in line at the drive-through—an exercise far more time-consuming than opening a container of yoghurt or pouring some high-fiber cereal into a bowl.
Who else is eating at McDonald’s? According to evidence provided by the naked eye, it’s a large chunk of the 78.3% of the U.S. population currently suffering from obesity. Doubling the wages of fast food workers and increasing prices by 17% would violate our fundamental American right to contract conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and stroke at a reasonable cost, and that simply isn’t acceptable.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, published by Lyons Press (Globe Pequot); for more information, go to amazon.com