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

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Florida Miami Homestead McDonald's fast food restaurant inside counter employee Hispanic man cashier giving receipt change custo
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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.

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