Read

User menu

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

Sign Up

Article Tabs

Greek economic crisis, Greek bailout, Syriza party, Greek austerity measures, E.U. bailouts, Alexis Tsipras

Poverty, privatizations, debt – in Greece, which just officially "ended" its bailout program, the silent majority can't let go their fear that this might just be the prelude to something worse yet to come.

California, privatization, PG&E, investor-owned utilities, energy utilities, fire risk, fire damage, Global Climate Action Summit, public banks, energy prices, consumer fees

Oil companies heat and dry up the planet, power companies start fires on the dried up land – and we pay the bills.

cybersecurity programs, US cybersecurity, Fox journalists, Fox influence, biased reporting, Fox spin, Donald Trump

It’s not clear why 43-year-old Fox News general assignment reporter Lea Gabrielle would be the answer to the State Department's long-lasting cybersecurity problems.

Black Lives Matter is no longer a target for domestic oppression. The threat of their human rights work has now peaked the interest of oppressive entities abroad.

teacher strikes, treacher pay, union busting, right to work, Janus decision, teacher demands, union support

While many teachers and their unions in the major strike states are still in a watching and waiting mode, the revolt has spread and militancy is growing.

Greek economic crisis, Greek bailout, Syriza party, Greek austerity measures, E.U. bailouts, Alexis Tsipras

Poverty, privatizations, debt – in Greece, which just officially "ended" its bailout program, the silent majority can't let go their fear that this might just be the prelude to something worse yet to come.

“We just want to be able to take care of ourselves as men and women, in this Department of Corrections,” a strike participant from a South Carolina prison said.Photograph by David Paul Morris / Bloomberg / Getty

Wages for incarcerated workers are typically cents per hour, and several states—Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas, and South Carolina—use prisoner labor without paying them at all.

Occupy Wall Street, OWS, Occupy protests, Zuccotti Park, wealth inequality, Occupy anniversary

How a movement that eschewed electoral politics is now showing up everywhere in the 2018 progressive resurgence.

California, privatization, PG&E, investor-owned utilities, energy utilities, fire risk, fire damage, Global Climate Action Summit, public banks, energy prices, consumer fees

Oil companies heat and dry up the planet, power companies start fires on the dried up land – and we pay the bills.

too big to fail, public banks, public banking, Bank of North Dakota, financial crisis

When the next crisis hits, the public will once again be called upon to step in and bail out Wall Street. We need to start seriously preparing an alternative response: public banks.

cybersecurity programs, US cybersecurity, Fox journalists, Fox influence, biased reporting, Fox spin, Donald Trump

It’s not clear why 43-year-old Fox News general assignment reporter Lea Gabrielle would be the answer to the State Department's long-lasting cybersecurity problems.

Posted 5 days 20 hours ago

Black Lives Matter is no longer a target for domestic oppression. The threat of their human rights work has now peaked the interest of oppressive entities abroad.

Posted 6 days 21 hours ago
California, privatization, PG&E, investor-owned utilities, energy utilities, fire risk, fire damage, Global Climate Action Summit, public banks, energy prices, consumer fees

Oil companies heat and dry up the planet, power companies start fires on the dried up land – and we pay the bills.

Posted 1 day 18 hours ago
Illustration by Selman Design; Photographs by Tammy Bradshaw, Seth Wenig/Associated Press, Mark Makela for The New York Times, and Jeff Swensen for The New York Times.

Why the pitch from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders resonates in 2018.

Posted 6 days 22 hours ago
President Trump, Vice President Pence and first lady Melania Trump visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Washington, D.C., on June 6. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and FEMA Administrator Brock Long are seated at r

As Hurricane Florence bears down on the East Coast, a "reprehensible" disclosure.

Posted 5 days 21 hours ago
Illustration by Selman Design; Photographs by Tammy Bradshaw, Seth Wenig/Associated Press, Mark Makela for The New York Times, and Jeff Swensen for The New York Times.

Why the pitch from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders resonates in 2018.

California, privatization, PG&E, investor-owned utilities, energy utilities, fire risk, fire damage, Global Climate Action Summit, public banks, energy prices, consumer fees

Oil companies heat and dry up the planet, power companies start fires on the dried up land – and we pay the bills.

too big to fail, public banks, public banking, Bank of North Dakota, financial crisis

When the next crisis hits, the public will once again be called upon to step in and bail out Wall Street. We need to start seriously preparing an alternative response: public banks.

President Trump, Vice President Pence and first lady Melania Trump visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Washington, D.C., on June 6. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and FEMA Administrator Brock Long are seated at r

As Hurricane Florence bears down on the East Coast, a "reprehensible" disclosure.

Occupy Wall Street, OWS, Occupy protests, Zuccotti Park, wealth inequality, Occupy anniversary

How a movement that eschewed electoral politics is now showing up everywhere in the 2018 progressive resurgence.