Today, all across the United States in 50 cities, workers are leaving their registers, fryers, and grilling stations to demand that their wages be raised and that they be allowed to unionize without fear of losing their jobs.
Never mind that many are demanding a raise of over 100% — $15 is just a round number and one can only assume that this is meant to be a “first offer” that nobody truly expects to happen. At over two times the federal minimum wage, franchise restaurant owners and corporations are scoffing at the idea.
At the core of the workers’ demands of the $200 billion fast food industry is salary starting at $15 an hour from the current $7.25 an hour minimum wage and the $8.94 median wage for front-end workers.
At first glance, it’s easy to get caught in the misconception of teenagers, and the uneducated walking out on their jobs with little to no organization to their movement. While this is true to a degree, this has changed since the great recession. Both sides are bandying about statistics that stand in stark contrast to the other sides’.
Only 16 percent of fast food industry jobs now go to teens
Only 16 percent of fast food industry jobs now go to teens, down from 25 percent a decade ago. More than 42 percent of restaurant and fast-food employees over the age of 25 have at least some college education, including 753,000 with a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
One can only assume that the number is even more than this, with applicants too embarrassed to apply for a job held by those who didn’t finish high school. Still others have no choice but to keep working, and have resigned themselves to fast food in order to provide for themselves and their families.
On the other side of the coin, The National Restaurant Association maintains that only about 5 percent of fast-food workers earn the minimum wage.
“The restaurant industry provides opportunity to over 13 million Americans with jobs that meet critical needs within our economy. We welcome a national discussion on wages, but it should be based on facts,” says Scott DeFife, the association’s executive vice president of policy and government affairs. “The restaurant industry is the nation’s second largest private sector employer and our industry is an industry of opportunity.”
I don’t wish to compliment DeFife too much, but he would make one hell of a wartime armed forces recruiter.
“Nine out of ten salaried restaurant workers, including owners and managers, started as hourly workers. The fact is, only 5 percent of restaurant employees earn the minimum wage, and those that do are predominantly working part-time and half are teenagers,” DeFife added. “Restaurant jobs teach valuable skills and a strong work ethic that are useful for workers throughout their professional careers.”
If you take out ‘restaurant’ or ‘restaurant industry’ and insert ‘Army/Navy,’ I think we’ve all heard that one before.