The Dark Side of Dollar Menus: Fast-Food Workers Fight for Fair Wages


Picket lines across the country are targeting the nation’s top fast-food restaurants in efforts to pressure the chains to increase their hourly wages to $15.

Fast-food workers claim they can no longer afford to work for the fast-food industry at minimum wage. Workers walked out of a Wendy’s location in Lower Manhattan and protests have occurred in at least seven U.S. cities, reports NPR.

According to the National Restaurant Association, the reason wages are as low as they are is that profit margins are tight, “and labor costs are among the industry’s biggest expenses,” NPR reports.

To raise the minimum to $15 would essentially double worker’s wages, which could push the industry to automate tasks and eliminate more humans from the system.

“There are a number of chains here in the U.S. who are experimenting with electronic menus where you can order on an iPad-type device; you can pay on that device,” Michael Saltsman, research director at the Employment Policies Institute, told NPR. “These are changes that happen in direct response to higher labor costs.”

Despite the number of adult workers who support families on their earnings at fast-food restaurants, the majority of workers are teenagers or part-time employees, such as second-wage earners in families, according to labor experts. Offering higher wages would be difficult to justify for unskilled laborers, the industry claims, and that could put a lot of people out of work in an industry that’s been a stepping stone for many young people, often a first job.

But the risks haven’t deterred protests, according to NPR. They’re scheduled to continue in major U.S. cities.

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Image: the consumerist

Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.