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December 3 2013

What's Really At Stake in the Fast Food Debate

Julie Gunlock

Yesterday, I wrote about the planned strikes at fast food restaurants in 100 cities across the nation and suggested that the industry would be wise to accelerate any r&d in the area of automation.

Reading more about the strikes this morning, it’s clear that those insisting on an unrealistic $15 an hour wage are pushing the narrative that it’s simply too hard for a family of four to live on the current minimum wage, which would produce a family income of about $15,000 a year. I'll give them that! That would be nearly impossible.

Yet, are people really only living on $15,000 a year?

Over at Commentary, John Steele Gordon points out that people who promote this sob story often leave out a few important details. Gordon writes:

A family of four with an annual income of $15,000 would be eligible for food stamps amounting to $7,584 and an earned income tax credit of $5,372. That raises the family income to $27,911, which is quite an improvement. The family would also be eligible for Medicaid, school lunch and breakfast programs, perhaps housing assistance and other forms of help. He also leaves out the fact that very, very few people earning the minimum wage are the sole breadwinners of a family of four. Most are entry-level employees, often teenagers, with no developed skills.  Most people who take a job at the minimum wage are earning above that level within a year, having learned marketable skills.

The minimum wage is a favorite liberal hobbyhorse, heavily promoted by labor unions. It is typical progressivism: a liberal politician (or journalist) says, in effect, “See that man over there? He needs help.” Then he points to an employer and says, “You, help him.” Finally, he points to himself and, addressing the man needing help, says, “Don’t forget where the help came from.”

Gordon also explains why big labor is interested in this issue. After all, unionized workers typically earn far above minimum wage. Why would organized labor work so hard to coordinate this strike?

“…labor contracts are often predicated on the minimum wage, with the bottom tier of workers earning 1.5 or 2 or 3 times the minimum wage. So if the minimum wage goes up, so do the wages of all the workers covered by such a contract. Labor leaders may shed crocodile tears for the poor and downtrodden, but what they care about—because that’s what they’re paid to care about—are their often well-paid workers.

This proves, yet again, that organized labor isn’t looking out for the welfare of fast food workers but using them as a pawn in their battle to gain more for their own members.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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