Why the Fast Food Wage Fight Affects You More Than You Realize

Florida Miami Homestead McDonald's fast food restaurant inside counter employee Hispanic man cashier giving receipt change custo
On Thursday, fast food workers in 60 U.S. cities launched the largest fast food strike in history, picketing hundreds of locations to demand pay raises. For most consumers, this massive demonstration will translate into little more than a decision to skip the Big Mac for a day, but the events of the day will have long-ranging repercussions on your wallet. Here's why this strike is important to you -- and what you can do to change the employment landscape for America's low-wage workers.

It isn't hard to understand why fast food employees are striking. Currently, the average line worker makes $8.94 an hour -- more than the Federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, but not quite enough to live on, especially given that few of these workers are able to get full-time hours. On average, workers claim, a fast food employee brings home $10,000 a year, enough to strand a single person living alone well below the poverty threshold of $11,484. Add in a child or two, and that money comes up even further short.

It's worth noting that the low wages paid to fast food employees are actually making almost everyone's wallets lighter. Numerous economists have pointed out how a low minimum wage depresses salaries overall -- and makes the economy more sluggish. What's more, low-wage fast food workers are far more likely to need help from government programs like food stamps and subsidized housing -- which, themselves, are a further drag on taxpayers.

So what can you do to help raise wages for fast food workers? One solution is to go to restaurants that treat their employees well. Recently, AOL Jobs' Dan Fastenberg highlighted Boloco, a Boston-based chain that pays its workers up to $17 per hour. Meanwhile, California-based In-N-Out Burger had an 84 percent approval rating from its employees in Glassdoor's survey -- and its CEO, Lynsi Martinez, got an 88 percent approval rating.

But you don't have to travel to California or Boston to find fast food joints with happy employees. In a recent article, Business Insider highlighted several restaurants, notably In-N-Out, Chik-Fil-A and Taco Bell, that have better-than-average worker loyalty. And job analysis site Glassdoor.com publishes reviews from workers at most major chains. So if you want to know what life is like on the other side of the counter -- and want to base your spending decisions accordingly -- it's a great tool for helping you put your money where your mouth is.

Bruce Watson is DailyFinance's Savings Editor. You can reach him by e-mail at bruce.watson@teamaol.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Getting out of debt

Everyone hates debt. Get out of it.

View Course »

Managing your Portfolio

Keeping your portfolio and financial life fit!

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:

Why does anyone in a low skill entry level job think they deserve a wage comparable to someone who made the effort to make themselves more marketable through education and skill development? You don't deserve $15 per hour for slapping a burger onto a grill, or slathering mayo on a bun. You should have tried harder in school, or attended a vocational school so that you'd have what an employer considers valuable. Nobody feels sorry for you other than yourself.

September 02 2013 at 1:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Ever heard of the UAW? If you want more, then start up the UFFW. .......Slap a hubcap on a car or slap some beans in a taco shell, about the same skill level is required.

August 31 2013 at 10:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Sadly I eat at fast food restaurants once a week. Overall the people working there rude, slow to do their job and have an "I'm entitled" attitude. As long as they act like this they deserve low pay

August 31 2013 at 9:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

yea leave them at minimum wage ....everybody likes paying for their food stamps and welfare checks

August 31 2013 at 4:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

At $17.00 a hour a Mc Donalds Mc double would go from $ 1.00 to about $ 3.50 ! Thats old liberal bruce for you !

August 30 2013 at 6:12 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to coinman507's comment

Actually the real math is in, and you are wrong with your uneducated guess. Your entire meal including fries and drink would go up about sixty cents. That is a decimal pont, followed by a six and a zero. So the old, and I do mean old GOP ignorance is alive and well in your uneducated head. That is why America does not vote for you idiots to run the country anymore Cooter Brown.

August 31 2013 at 12:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Steven's comment

The meal might only rise by 60 cents, but the value of your shares in that company would decline by much more. You probably have a 401k, or an IRA, why do you think those investments make money? It's because the people running those companies in your mutual funds aren't stupid enough to overpay their employees for simple menial labor. If you feel that sorry for the McDonalds employee who last served you then you probably should have offered them a tip. Mine would be "Go back to school and learn something that will give you marketable skills."

September 02 2013 at 1:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

You mwentioned the chains with employee satisfaction but you did not say their pay. The counter job or window job at any fast food restaurant was never supposed to be a place for anyone to do anything other than have an entry level job. Today teenagers cannot get jobs because minimum wage is too high to hire serveral extra people to just learn and to do the small jobs of cleaning up and taking trash out. If someone is not making a lot more than minimum wage they do not offer much to any employer as to additional skills. Lets just have a $5.00 dollar meal and slower service with a bad attitude at $15 an hour, then they would want 30 because they need more.. Have not added a single new skill.

August 30 2013 at 3:09 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I live in a tourist town, so I meet all kinds of people. Seems that everyone wants American products and services but want to pay only chinese prices. People will come into a shop and complain about the the prices. then buy the cheap stuff. Many do not understand that is why the cost difference.

August 30 2013 at 11:24 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

these r not meant to be family supporting jobs............

if they give in to this,, i wi;ll make my own burgers,,

August 30 2013 at 11:09 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Who wrote this article a 7th grader? The points Mr. Watson makes are foolish and he backs up his reasoning with evidence that dosen't even come close to supporting his premise.
The truth is that in these 60 protests, few iof any of the protesters were actually fast food workers. They were union lackey and lost Occupoopers looking for a sandwich and a cup of coffee! The organization driving the $15 movement are the UNIONS! SEIU and others. They need the dures since they are driving all of the other formerly decent jobs out of business or out of the country. The new $15 program is going to need workers at $15 hr to support the the UNION dues. Wake UP!

August 30 2013 at 10:50 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dpthoensen1's comment

As opposed to you, who sprouts off major network talking points on command? All Watson did was highlight the issue with links and suggested a free market remedy as a solution.
Unless you're against people supporting business they like and treating others with respect. Watson never even mentioned the word union. And just because you couldn't come up with a original thought on your own, somebody else has to be chastise for that? You know, there's not always someone out to get you under your bed.

August 30 2013 at 11:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to theycallmeroy3's comment

And yet you keep reading. I'm not saying Watson should be up for a Pulitzer, yet, but there's something to holding strong to ones convictions, whether we agree or not.

August 30 2013 at 12:15 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down
Tolerant Voice

There will be no economic recovery or help for low wage earners until Congress requires products SOLD in the US be made with the same tariffs as MADE in the US. As long as 90% of consumer goods in the US are made offshore with wages as low as 58 cent/hr., wages will be depressed in the US. I hope the food workers get $15.00 but I hope they get their Congressman to lobby for products SOLD in the US be made with the same tariffs as MADE in the US

August 30 2013 at 10:08 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply