workers freedom

economics as if workers mattered

More Fast-Food Strikes

Fast Food workers will strike again tomorrow, in cities across the country, demanding a living wage. Officially, they’re seeking $15 an hour, though when pressed the unions behind the campaign often concede that this is “unrealistic.”

But why is it unrealistic? Yes, it would nearly double wages for most fast food workers, and that wouldn’t be good for profits. But there are lots of profits in the industry, and lots of parasites living off the labor of the minimum wage minions who push us steadily toward hypertension and obesity.

But wages are a relatively small part of the cost structure. When Florida tomato pickers demanded a living wage, they calculated that doubling their pay rate would add a penny a pound to the cost of the tomatoes they fed into the agro-industrial complex.  When I was helping organize adjunct faculty, one college announced a 25% immediate pay hike in response to an organizing meeting we called that drew not even a dozen people. (The exploitation of adjunct faculty is so intense that at most schools, one or two students in a class cover the entire salary of the teacher. But of course no class with such a low enrollment would be allowed to proceed.)

The fast food giants could double workers’ pay, and make up the difference by trimming the outrageous salaries of their overpaid executives, cutting back on other parasites, foregoing some profits, and at most adding a few cents per item to the bill. They just don’t want to. It’s much more profitable to force people into two or three jobs, relying on food stamps (also under attack) to feed their families, and facing imminent homelessness should they get sick for a couple of days or have some other emergency. That, after all, is the American way.

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