By Tiffany Hsu
December 5, 2013, 2:39 p.m.
Rallies over fast-food wages continued into the afternoon Thursday, with roughly 100 people congregating on the narrow sidewalk outside a McDonald’s restaurant in Silver Lake.
Many of the protesters were repeats from a morning event outside a McDonald’s in Florence. This time, with the sun out, they vigorously hollered slogans such as “What do we want? 15! When do we want it? Now!”
The protests are a continuation of rallies held this summer to raise support for a $15-an-hour minimum wage for quick-service workers. Cashiers, drive-through operators and other employees — along with union representatives and community supporters — are also agitating for the right to unionize and the ability to strike without backlash.
At the McDonald’s on Sunset Boulevard, an informal poll showed roughly as many organizers and supporters as workers. Cars blared at the crowd; at one point, the group funneled inside the eatery and directed their megaphones at the workers manning their stations behind the counter.
Michael Pollan, author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” wrote an email earlier Thursday to members of advocacy group MoveOn.org, arguing that today’s meals seem cheap to consumers because they’re blind to hidden costs such as the exploitation of food and farm workers.
“As a society, we've trapped ourselves in a kind of reverse Fordism,” Pollan wrote. “Instead of paying workers well enough so that they can afford good, honestly-priced products — as Henry Ford endeavored to do so that his workers might afford to buy his cars — we pay them so little that the only food they can afford is junk food destructive of their health and the environment's.”
But in Sabrina Schaeffer, executive director of the Independent Women’s Forum, said in a statement that raising the minimum wage “could backfire on those workers by reducing employment opportunities.”
“People often assume that employers have huge profit margins and could easily pay more but don’t because they are mean-spirited,” she said. “That’s just not the case. Most franchises operate on very small margins. That’s why we have recently seen fast-food restaurants react to new healthcare mandates by reducing their workforce and cutting back workers' hours.”
This week, the right-leaning Employment Policies Institute said it analyzed Census Bureau data from January 2012 through October 2013, focusing on fast-food workers who would be affected by a wage increase to $15 an hour — about 2.5 million workers, according to the group.
EPI concluded — conservatively, it said — that 460,000 jobs would be lost in the quick-service industry if a $15-an-hour wage becomes a reality. California would lose more than 50,000 jobs, the most of any state, according to EPI.
Separately, consumer perception tracker YouGov BrandIndex measured reputation scores for major fast-food chains between early 2010 and the start of December. Brands such as KFC, McDonald’s and Wendy’s began suffering declines halfway through this year.
McDonald’s and Taco Bell have received mostly negative feedback from respondents for nearly four years, while consumers are neutral on KFC, according to YouGov.