Read

Search form

What’s the Real Cost of Your Cheap Fast Food?

What’s the Real Cost of Your Cheap Fast Food?
Tue, 9/3/2013 - by Fred Kammer
This article originally appeared on Washington Post

Last week, thousands of Americans stepped away from their jobs at fast-food restaurants and into the streets to make a plea: Pay us enough to support ourselves and feed our families. The workers joining this nationwide protest are our neighbors, friends, fellow citizens. But their strike is not just about their plight. It is about all of us, and the kind of country we want to live in.

As economic inequality grows deeper and wider across the nation, we need to remember how deeply unjust it is. It is unjust by the standards of our civic values and of our faith – indeed, in this diverse society, of all faith traditions.

Dr. King, who died while pleading on behalf of underpaid and exploited workers, said, “It is a crime for people to live in this rich nation and receive starvation wages.” Drawing from the same centuries-old Christian teaching, Pope Francis warned, 50 years later, “No amount of peace-building will be able to last, nor will harmony and happiness be attained in a society that ignores, pushes to the margins, or excludes a part of itself.”

The measures of inequality in our society are abundant. While 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. While corporate profits have ballooned, many workers qualify for food stamps and housing subsidies. Some have to live in homeless shelters.

The majority of fast-food workers, and of those in retail jobs that are just as poorly paid, are adults – their median age is 28 – and more than a quarter of them are raising children. Many are denied full-time work, as employers limit their hours to keep them from qualifying for health insurance and other benefits. In big cities, their rents are high and even public transportation is a financial strain.

What they ask is simply a wage of $15 an hour and the right to form unions. The plea echoes those of the March on Washington 50 years ago, which called for a national minimum wage of $2 an hour. Adjusted for inflation, that would be $15.26 today, or more than twice what the actual minimum wage is. That, too, is barely enough to feed a family.

Religious leaders, among many others, have called for an increase in the minimum wage as the number of Americans living in poverty has grown, but Congress shows no sign of responding. Certainly the fast-food industry, with high unemployment keeping its labor costs down, is not raising standards on its own. And so, once again, workers are taking to the picket lines.

America’s failure to allow so many of its own workers a sustaining wage is only a symptom of a larger sickness, the “culture of selfishness” that Pope Francis recently decried as he lamented the growing chasm between rich and poor.

For the past ten years, wages and salaries for most workers, especially those at the bottom of the income scale, have remained stagnant. While productivity continued to climb, virtually all the economic gains of the last decade have flowed to the very richest among us. We have behaved more as corporate shareholders than as community shareholders committed to the common good. As support programs for the poor have been cut, we have looked away, embodying what Pope Francis calls the “globalization of indifference.” We have accepted the notion that those at the bottom, no matter how hard they work, are somehow undeserving.

From its earliest days, Christianity has condemned avarice and embraced community. Jesus told parables of the need to pay workers a just wage, as did the Old Testament prophets before him and church leaders and scholars for centuries after him. The call for justice in the treatment of workers is a moral imperative. The doctrine does not change with time or political or economic trends, but has guided spiritual leaders for centuries.

That is why clergy across America are supporting the workers who, at risk to their livelihoods, are taking to the streets in 40 cities. They are appealing not just to their employers but to all who should be their allies. It is our country, our future, and our conscience.

Originally published by Washington Post

Add new comment

Sign Up

Article Tabs

This week, the ice is melting, sea levels are rising and science denying psychopaths are steering the canoe.

Noam Chomsky, Donald Trump, demagogue, Republican Party control, climate catastrophe, American militarism, fascism

Some years ago, the public intellectual warned that the U.S. was ripe for the rise of an authoritarian figure. Now he describes the threat Trump poses to the planet.

Dakota Access Pipeline, Standing Rock, Alex Garland, North Dakota, Standing Rock Sioux tribe, Standing Rock protests

Here are some of the faces from Standing Rock, in their own words.

Somali-Americans, Somali businesses, Abdul Razak Artan, Ohio State attacks, Somali activism

The Somali-American community was bashed last week after Abdul Razak Artan, a member of Ohio's large and growing Somali community, took part in a car-ramming attack and massive stabbing at the school that left 13 injured.

Dakota Access Pipeline, Standing Rock Sioux tribe, Standing Rock protests, DAPL

"We thank the tribal youth who initiated this movement. We thank the millions of people around the globe who expressed support for our cause. We thank the thousands of people who came to the camps to support us."

standing rock, oceti sakowin, lakota, cheyenne, sioux, north dakota, NoDAPL, oil pipeline, Army Corps of Engineers, wiyaka eagleman, eviction notice, veterans for standing rock, lake oahe, oahe dam, governor jack dalrymple, blockades, sophia wilansky, rio

This week, in a special episode, we dig into the latest news from Standing Rock.

Posted 6 days 21 hours ago
Dakota Access Pipeline, #NoDAPL, Standing Rock Sioux tribe, Standing Rock protests, Fort Laramie Treaty, Barack Obama, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Missouri River

Snow is slowing covering the encampment at Standing Rock, and despite an "emergency evacuation order" issued this week by North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple, the Dakota Access Pipeline protesters aren't leaving.

Posted 5 days 20 hours ago
Austrian elections, populist movemens, rightwing populism, anti-Europe sentiment, Brexit, Donald Trump, Freedom Party, xenophobia

Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party has a shot to win the presidency and become Austria's first right-wing head of state since the end of World War II.

Posted 4 days 21 hours ago
Dakota Access Pipeline, Standing Rock, Alex Garland, Bakken pipeline, North Dakota

Here are some of the faces from Standing Rock, in their own words.

Posted 3 days 19 hours ago
Somali-Americans, Somali businesses, Abdul Razak Artan, Ohio State attacks, Somali activism

The Somali-American community was bashed last week after Abdul Razak Artan, a member of Ohio's large and growing Somali community, took part in a car-ramming attack and massive stabbing at the school that left 13 injured.

Posted 1 day 2 hours ago
Dakota Access Pipeline, Standing Rock, Alex Garland, North Dakota, Standing Rock Sioux tribe, Standing Rock protests

Here are some of the faces from Standing Rock, in their own words.

Fight for $15, living wage, minimum wage hikes, Service Employees International Union, protest arrests, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, overtime pay

Scores of demonstrators were arrested on Tuesday as U.S. fast-food and airport workers led nationwide protests for higher pay and union rights in their first major action since Donald Trump was elected president.

Dakota Access Pipeline, Standing Rock Sioux tribe, Standing Rock protests, DAPL

"We thank the tribal youth who initiated this movement. We thank the millions of people around the globe who expressed support for our cause. We thank the thousands of people who came to the camps to support us."

democracies in decline, liberal democracy, Freedom House, Yascha Mounk, Roberto Stefan Foa, deconsolidation, anti-establishment politics, Journal of Democracy

Yascha Mounk, a lecturer in government at Harvard and author of Stranger in My Own Country, says liberal democracies around the world may be at serious risk of decline.

standing rock, oceti sakowin, lakota, cheyenne, sioux, north dakota, NoDAPL, oil pipeline, Army Corps of Engineers, wiyaka eagleman, eviction notice, veterans for standing rock, lake oahe, oahe dam, governor jack dalrymple, blockades, sophia wilansky, rio

This week, in a special episode, we dig into the latest news from Standing Rock.