Walmart Employees Join Fast-Food Workers In Fight To Super-Size Their Minimum Wage Pay

September 5, 2013  |  

Walmart workers and supporters are prepared to protest today in 15 cities in an effort to gain higher wages and better working conditions. In Los Angeles, there will be a rally at the Four Seasons, where Walmart board member, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has an apartment. In Washington DC, protests are expected in the wake of a new law that raises the hourly wage for workers at large retailers to $12.50 per hour. And in New York, a petition will be delivered to board member Christopher Williams, who is also the chairman of Williams Capital Group. (We actually stole a moment with Williams at a New York gala back in June on this very topic.)

The Guardian points out that this action is being taken by just a fraction of the 1.3 million workers who work for the company. But it comes at a time when Walmart is coming under scrutiny for its operations and business dealings around the world and after a number of employee complaints, including allegations of unlawful terminations in the wake of previous protests. Walmart denies any wrongdoing, The Guardian says.

The action also comes only days after massive protests by fast food workers, who are also seeking better wages and working conditions. Fast-food workers across 60 cities stopped serving salt-sprinkled fries and triple-stacked burgers last Thursday to fight for a minimum wage hike. Fed up with their unsustainable $7.25 per hour pay, low-wage employees seek a pay raise to $15 per hour as fast-food profits balloon, USA Today reports.

“McDonald’s CEO was paid $13.8 million in 2012 and Burger King’s $6.5 million, the average fast-food worker makes $10,000 to $18,000 a year,” according to the Washington Post.

Frustrated employees from McDonalds, Burger King, Wendys, KFC, Taco Bell, and Little Ceasars walked out on the job. “I know I’m risking my job, but it’s my right to fight for what I deserve,” said Julio Wilson, a worker at Little Ceasars. “Nine dollars an hour is not enough to make ends meet nowadays.” Wilson, who has a 5-year-old daughter, was picketing with about 30 people outside of the pizza establishment in Raleigh, N.C.

“The bottom line is we are doing this to let the corporations know we want $15 an hour, better working conditions — and we want to be treated fairly, ” said the Rev. W.J. Rideout III of Detroit’s All God’s People Church.

Along with Detroit, Milwaukee  and St. Louis also experienced fast-food restaurant closings due to employee walk-outs.

“We’re here today because we feel like McDonald’s is a $6 billion entity and it’s not unfeasible for them to pay $15 an hour,” McDonald’s employee Dwight Murray said. While Dwight and several employees protested outside the Indianapolis-based restaurant, the Mcdonald’s remained open due to workers who refused to participate in the protest.

Fran Quigley, although not a fast-food worker, supported Dwight and other employees in the fight for higher wages; he believes that the community suffers when these employees work arduously, but do not reap the fruits of their labor. The taxpayer must subsidize their finances through food stamps and Medicaid.

In metropolitan areas, the rent is skyhigh and public transportation is a strain—just getting to work bites a large chunk out of a fast-food worker’s paycheck. While many brush off the wage hike protests claiming that fast-food work is reserved for high school students, the truth is that the median age of fast-food employees is 28.

However, some economic experts say that since consumers are already cutting back on spending, an increase in minimum wages will translate into skyrocketing fast-food prices; this will cripple businesses, they claim:

Industry observers and representatives say a $15 hourly wage, which would boost annual salaries to about $31,200, would likely force most restaurants to pass on higher costs to customers, crimping already tepid sales and forcing employers to cut workers.

A public policy analyst, Michael Lee from Forbes, says that the wage hike would actually backfire on the workers: “[S]uch a large increase in hourly wages will have labor impacts: principally that employers will likely reduce hours and headcount, and will probably demand more of the remaining employees.”

In the case of Walmart, Daniel Gross at The Daily Beast actually argues if the company paid more, workers would spend more. The amount of consumption can’t grow when the cost of living goes up but wages do not.

Which side are you on? 

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