Fast Food Protest
Walmart (WMT) laborers aren't the only ones protesting low pay. Fast-food workers are also joining the movement.

In late November, more than 200 workers at Burger King (BKW), Wendy's (WEN), McDonald's (MCD), and several other fast-food restaurants went on strike in New York. According to one of the organizers, Jonathan Westin, this was only the beginning of a larger campaign.

So, what's their beef? Let's start with pay.

Many fast-food workers are paid at or slightly above the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. The median annual income for these employees is around $18,230.

Defenders of the fast-food industry support these wages by saying the jobs are meant to serve as a stepping stone for individuals trying to gain training and experience that will allow them to land better jobs down the road.

But according to reporting by The Atlantic, the people asking you if you want fries with your meal aren't often youngsters just starting out. The article cites Bureau of Labor Statistics data that states that the national median age of fast-food workers is over 28, and for women -- who occupy up to two-thirds of the positions at fast-food restaurants -- the median age is over 32.

More than 43 percent of workers earning less than $10 per hour already have some college education. Also, nearly 70 percent of U.S. jobs don't require education beyond the high-school level -- a figure that the Labor Department claims is unlikely to change much over the next 10 years.

This makes it difficult for low-wage employees to use these service jobs as a stepping stone to better careers -- and doubly so if there aren't even enough high-skill jobs to go around.

Higher Pay, Higher Recognition

Some argue that the only way we can address poverty problems in our country is by raising the wages of these service jobs. And that is part of what the protesters are trying to do -- demanding a minimum of $15 per hour.

But some protesters also hope to improve their bargaining power by gaining recognition for a new union, called the Fast Food Workers Committee, that would represent fast-food workers at a variety of restaurants.

Westin claimed that last week's strikes demonstrated to workers that they could strike without losing their jobs, and predicted that this would lead to increased employee involvement in future protests and build momentum for the movement.

Slower Service, Higher Prices?

If Westin is right, protesters may not have to rely on supportive consumer sentiment to level a hit against their employers' bottom lines.

At one McDonald's location, Westin reported that 14 of the 17 employees scheduled to work on the day of the strike decided to join the protest. The obvious result is that when protests take place, customers' fast food won't get to them particularly fast, which may drive them to consider other options even if they side with the business.

But what if the protesters' demands are met -- how will that affect your pocketbook?

According to one estimate, a 20 percent pay raise for workers would cost average fast-food restaurants between 1 percent and 2 percent of their revenue. And what if the protesters' demands for $15-an-hour wages (from the current $7.25 average) are met? Doubling wages doesn't mean that food costs will double. All else being equal, this pay increase would cost these businesses 5 percent to 10 percent of their revenue -- increases that might ultimately be passed on to consumers.

Now that you know about fast-food workers' grievances, and the effect their protests may have on you, what do you think of their demands? Chime in below!

Motley Fool contributor M. Joy Hayes, Ph.D. is the Principal at ethics consulting firm Courageous Ethics. She owns shares of McDonald's. The Motley Fool owns shares of McDonald's. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Burger King Worldwide and McDonald's.

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Marilyn Mitchell

I would like to see any of the posters on here work for a week in a fast food restaurant. Just try it. Then I think you will sing a different tune. t_trevor2's comment "The reason the less than 3% of employees who work for minimum wage have these jobs is because they aren't qualified for one of the 140 million other jobs that pay over minimum wage." Is complete baloney. I work at Wendy's and the only reason I do is because there are no jobs in my field. Hiring managers are receiving up to 75 resumes for one position. I would like to see any of you stand in front of 30 people, take their order as fast as you can, prepare their order as fast as you can, and get every order right the first time. In between customers you will be working your ass off cleaning up after customers like you who don't give a darn about the mess they're making because us stupid fast food workers have to do it for you. And most of you are downright slobs. Then you will get a 10 minute break to which if you are 1 minute late returning you will get at least yelled at. And we receive no benefits whatsoever and in my case at Wendy's not even a free soda. This is slave labor and inexcusable. I'm ashamed to read your comments and maybe one day you will be in the position to accept a fast food job. Then maybe you will stop thinking you're so much better than me or my coworkers and get off your high horses. You should be ashamed to be an American.

June 16 2013 at 4:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Marilyn Mitchell's comment

Been there, done that Marilyn. I still do not believe that fast food workers should be entitled to a $15 per hour wage when MANY skilled, professional jobs are not even paying SKILLED workers that rate. $15 per hour to slap a burger in a bag? I don't think so!

August 29 2013 at 1:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

No individual has a right to be hired by any company and if they are hired then they should shut up their complaining or leave the company before they complain. The salaries are what they are or people wont buy the products raise the salaries to the levels suggested and people will go elsewhere. Its not like the educational level is so high these people can go to better paying jobs in other industries. But if they work and develop people skills and good work habits they will find they are in demand. But for now if they strike or even demonstrate they should be fired and bodily thrown out on the street.

December 13 2012 at 9:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The last I knew, no one is forced to work at a fast food restaurant or Walmart. Low skilled jobs are not going to be well paid! When someone accepts a position, they are fully aware of the salary being offered. If workers feel that their pay or chances for advancement are insufficient, or that working conditions are unsatisfactory, then they should seek employment elsewhere! If their skills need enhancing to qualifiy for a different job, then it is up to them to make the necessary preparation for that possibility. Too many people today place the blame for their lot in life on anything or anyone but themselves. We are each responsible for our own path in life and the choices you make will determine that path.

December 13 2012 at 4:32 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

[According to one estimate, a 20 percent pay raise for workers would cost average fast-food restaurants between 1 percent and 2 percent of their revenue.]

In other words, for a fast food place, the cost of labor (wages) is not the biggest cost. And corporate could afford to subsidize the franchise places by lowering their costs of goods, and still be able to pay their CEOs a hefty pay package.

And when fast food workers have more money in their pockets, they can spend more in the economy, and taxpayers don't have to subsidize food stamps or other costs for people who simply cannot make a living wage and support families.

And for those who complain about the quality of workers at a fast food place, then don't return there. The word gets out, and the business either improves or closes. That is how capitalism is supposed to work, isn't it?

And in paying a decent wage may mean less turnover, and less time having to spend training new employees.

Just how much are the franchise owners of the fast food places overpaying for the supplies they have to buy from corporate?

December 11 2012 at 9:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I just hope that the illegals that work in my vineyards do not decide to strike for higher wages, dears.

December 11 2012 at 8:57 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I hope all restaurant and retail workers get substancial raises as they are hard working people who deserve to be paid fairly and right now they are nothing more than slave laborers while these companies enjoy hefty year in and year out profits.

December 11 2012 at 3:15 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Kathy's comment

It sounds like you need to start a fast food restaurant, pay your labor double the going rate, and lose your entire life savings!

December 11 2012 at 4:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Oh my Kathy. Will you be willing to pay double the price for what you are paying now in those fast food places. It is very easy to say raise people wages but then no one wants to pay the extra for it dear. So sorry to see that you wander through life in a state of confusion darling.

Oh and by the way, no one is forcing people to work there doll.

December 11 2012 at 6:40 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

And they are all Obama voters and the taxes will rise!./ So whats new???

December 11 2012 at 2:03 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

I think 15.00 an hour is too much, however 10.50 or so would be a more fair amount. The fact that a person could work at a resturant all day then collect food stamps to eat is just plain sad. Meet them half-way. Raise their pay and your prices. Can't we all just get along. Corporate profits at McDonalds are really good, they could really afford to raise the wages right now. These are people not meant to be slaves, and the arguement that they can leave if they don't like it. There are not a lot of jobs out there to leave to, and if there was I'm sure most would do that.

December 11 2012 at 1:53 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Mark's comment

1) According to the BLS Employment Survey for November 2012, there were approximately 144 million non-farm civilian jobs in the US (the total number is actually higher when including those not counted by the BLS Survey, such as farmers or military)

2) According to the BLS annual Characteristics of Minimum Wage Workers Report, approximately 3.8 million workers were minimum wage employees in 2011 (the most recent period for which there is currently available data).

In other words, over 97% of 144 million jobs pay over minimum wage. The reason the less than 3% of employees who work for minimum wage have these jobs is because they aren't qualified for one of the 140 million other jobs that pay over minimum wage.

Since these workers are essentially asking that their wages be more than doubled, "meeting them halfway" means purchasing labor at a 50% premium to the price at which 3.8 million low-skilled workers voluntarily agree to sell their labor. Tell us how many times you voluntarily pay a 50% premium to the available price for a good or service? Like when you go to the grocery store, and the cashier rings up $150 for the contents of your cart. Do you flip her $225 just because the seller of those groceries would prefer $225 to $150? How about if you bought a new car with a $20,000 sticker price? Just tell them to write you a receipt for $30,000 because you don't think the car was initially priced expensively enough?

If not, what makes you think you can spend others resources in a manner in which you refuse to spend your own?

December 11 2012 at 11:06 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

McDonalds pays minimum wage+ in most case, in a restrauant they get below minimum and expect tip to offset.
Now in McDonalds they punch in your order, microwave it in the back, then assembleit and throw it in a bag and if your lucky get it correct.
In the restrauant they greet you, tell you of any special, ask if you would like a beverage, take your order, check on the status of the order along with if you require anything else. Then bring your food, check on any complaints you may have, refill your beverage, all the way to removing the plates after your meal; now for dessert and coffee and finally the bill.
So who deserves more.

December 11 2012 at 10:03 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Koz's comment

Who EVER tipped at McDonalds?

December 11 2012 at 10:51 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

If you have a MCDonalds that is asking for tips, you need to report them to corporate. That is not normal practice for them. I used to work as a teenager for them and never saw that.

December 11 2012 at 11:36 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

The "workers" (and I call them workers, because that is what they are supposed to be doing) at our local McDonald's, are slow and many times come off being obnoxious, I wouldn't pay them even the $7.25 that they are paid, the aren't worth it, and the food is horrible.... Wendy's is a bit better, and the workers are at least courteous... the only "fast food" place I will eat at is Chic-Fil- A, they have courteous workers and they are always efficient, and the food is 1st class.

December 11 2012 at 9:55 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply