Analysis: American Wages
A Few thousand fast-food workers in seven US cities, including New York and Chicago, left work last week to carry "Strike'' signs in front of McDonalds, Wendy's, Burger King, and other restaurants. They demanded better pay, the right to unionize, and an increase in the federal minimum hourly wage from $7.25 to $15.
"We work hard for companies that are making millions,'' said 34-year-old Terrance Wise, who lost his home last year despite working about 50-hour weeks at Pizza Hut and Burger King. "We want to make enough to make a decent living.''
These one-day protests come amid calls from the White House, some members of Congress, and economists to raise the federal minimum wage, which was last increased in 2009.
President Barack Obama wants to increase the hourly wage to $9. In July, more than 100 economists signed a petition supporting a legislative bill that would increase it to $10.50 an hour.
The restaurant industry argues that a $15 hourly wage could lead to businesses closings and fewer jobs. It also notes the cost of living varies greatly around the country and many states have higher minimum wages than the federal rate. (Eighteen states and the District of Columbia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.)
The Employment Policies Institute, which receives some funding from the industry, ran a full-page ad last week in USA Today with a warning: It showed the uniform of a fast-food worker with an iPad face, saying the wage increase could result in employees being replaced with automation, such as touch-screen ordering.
At a time when the economy is growing steadily but slowly and about 11. …