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Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
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38 Responses

  1. 2ndnin
    2ndnin August 29, 2013 at 11:18 am |

    How can they be paid only 60% of minimum wage – isn’t that illegal?

    1. Becca Stareyes
      Becca Stareyes August 29, 2013 at 11:44 am |

      The post doesn’t say that Federal minimum wage is $13.50, but that the March on Washington 50 years ago wanted a wage that would be $13.50 in today’s dollars. The USA minimum wage is not tied to inflation so even if the minimum wage was raised to $2 fifty years ago, it would have had to be repeatedly raised by Congress to keep up with a higher cost of living.

      (Also, technically, there are exceptions to minimum wage in the food service industry, but those involve waitstaff who can pick up tips*. Fast-food workers are required to be paid at least minimum wage: the problem is that minimum wage is, as Ms. Dukes notes, not enough for even a single adult to live on.)

      * Which is another (yet related) issue, so I’ll defer my discussion on that.

    2. StevenAttewell
      StevenAttewell August 30, 2013 at 11:24 pm |

      60% of male wages “in the restaurant and fast-food industries.” So we’re talking about a larger category than minimum wage jobs.

      Add on to that gender disparities when it comes to who gets hired as a shift manager or store manager, or who gets how many hours.

  2. Karak
    Karak August 29, 2013 at 11:55 am |

    I’ve been working in fast food for years. At one point I was making $8.50 an hour, 28 hours a week, and I applied for food stamps because I was living off my credit cards and paying for my rent by cooking and cleaning for my roommate.

    The food stamp people said they didn’t consider my credit card payments, student loan payments, or outrageous cost of gas. Just my rent and dependents. I didn’t qualify based on the fact my rent was “free”. When I explained I was essentially homeless and working like an unpaid domestic worker for a bed to sleep in, the lady sighed and re-iterated I didn’t qualify.

    What. The. Fuck.

    1. pheenobarbidoll
      pheenobarbidoll August 29, 2013 at 12:59 pm |

      Learned long ago to lie to those people. You get your roommate to say you’re paying rent( figure out what your domestic labor is worth). Sucks, but the system is set up to deny you.

      1. Fat Steve
        Fat Steve August 30, 2013 at 10:50 am |

        Learned long ago to lie to those people. You get your roommate to say you’re paying rent( figure out what your domestic labor is worth). Sucks, but the system is set up to deny you.

        Pheeno, I hate to put words in your mouth and would never claim to know what you’re thinking, but surely you meant to say ‘IF I was in that situation I would have learned long ago to lie….’ ;)

        1. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve August 30, 2013 at 10:51 am |


    2. Willemina
      Willemina August 29, 2013 at 1:03 pm |

      I wish the fucked-uped-ness of your situation could be forged in to a hammer to poleaxe the critics of a living minimum wage.

      If you make and serve food for a living, you should be able to afford to eat. >.<

    3. Palaverer
      Palaverer August 29, 2013 at 3:41 pm |

      I applied for food stamps when I was out of work between jobs. I was denied because I had to be working at least 20 hours per week. When I got the hours, I didn’t need the food stamps any more. This system is completely fucked up.

  3. Tony
    Tony August 29, 2013 at 12:36 pm |

    Great news that this strike is happening.

    When I was reading years ago from Daniel Bell’s “The End of Ideology”, one of the first books to correctly identify the decline of private sector unionism (it was published in 1960), I remember they had two main conditions for the success of private sector union success. The first was that organizing had to occur in a monopolistic industry. The second was that organizing had to be simultaneous and industry-wide, with the aim of achieving industry standards for labor agreements. These conditions prevented non-unionized competitors from coming in and undercutting unionized companies, or unionized companies from losing market share to existing non-unionized competitors. With decades of experience, an additional corollary to this would be that unionization happens in a non-tradeable industry: the jobs may be vulnerable to mechanization, but they can’t simply be “offshored”. The fact that private manufacturing industries failed all of these requirements after the 1960s, while government met all of these requirements, had much to do with the relative rise of public sector employee unions.

    The fast food retailers, ironically by consolidating themselves into these massive chains, have created relatively monopolistic conditions- which it’s in the unions’ interest, IMO, to further, maintain and protect. The jobs are service jobs so they can’t just be offshored. And the fact that this is happening nationally and not just confined to one or two companies is the final condition for potential success. It would be nice if this expanded into general retail (Wal-Mart, Costco, etc)

    1. Athenia
      Athenia August 30, 2013 at 9:58 am |

      Interesting! Thanks for this!

    2. Kerry
      Kerry August 30, 2013 at 11:08 am |

      It’s hard to offshore service jobs, but I can readily believe that McDonald’s will automate the work as soon as it’s cheaper to have machines than people – which could be pretty soon.

  4. Athenia
    Athenia August 29, 2013 at 1:57 pm |

    I support this strike 110%.

  5. Denise Winters
    Denise Winters August 29, 2013 at 7:41 pm |

    These are compelling stories and a strike I fully support. It still never fails to baffle me how so many people in the U.S. seem to at the same time rail against paying people a living wage, shame people for having certain types of jobs, and fight against any type of public assistance. The Horatio Alger myth lives and tends to serve as a rallying point for people who want to argue that these working conditions are admirable in the sense that people should work two or three jobs just to get by (while eating only beans and rice of course) and then not ask for more or so any dissatisfaction or disgruntlement. They should be grateful to work for decades just to raise their children and then do nothing more than hope their children will do better. I am glad this movement is getting attention and support.

    1. Denise Winters
      Denise Winters August 29, 2013 at 7:49 pm |

      Also, there are so many ways to get around minimum wage laws in the U.S. that go beyond just designating someone as a server. Including if some has certain mental of physical disabilities, someone’s age, or their school enrollment status. That people who are under 18 should be paid less than minimum wage is something else I too often hear with no thought given to the fact that not all young people are working “to gain responsibility” but rather to save for school and help support their families. And the limiting of people to less than 40 hours a week to avoid having to designate them as full-time, and the hiring of numerous people and cutting of everyone’s hours are often used tactics.

      1. Angie unduplicated
        Angie unduplicated August 30, 2013 at 9:33 am |

        The law allows an extended “training wage” that is half minimum. Goodwill Industries is notorious for this, and has incurred numerous complaints for exceeding this. No, they’re not fast food.
        So many complaints in MSM about overpayment relative to skills, and few or none about the greedhead wages at the top. Multinationals which shift payroll costs onto the social service systems, while evading taxes, should not be in business. That’s fraud.

        1. Rhoanna
          Rhoanna August 30, 2013 at 7:39 pm |

          Goodwill (and other employers) take advantage of Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act that allows them to pay disabled workers less than minimum wage. There isn’t a minimum wage that they have to be paid, it can be well less than half minimum wage. The idea is that workers are paid in proportion to their ability to perform the work; not surprisingly, this leads to exploitively low wages.

        2. amblingalong
          amblingalong August 31, 2013 at 6:59 pm |

          I find this one really tough. I mean, on the one hang, the message it sends to pay disabled people less is really, really fucked up. On the other, there’s actually pretty solid, empirical data that support the contention that without this legal exemption, there would be WAY fewer jobs for significantly disabled people, especially cognitively disabled people, over all.

          If anyone has some clarity I’d appreciate it.

  6. BroadBlogs
    BroadBlogs August 29, 2013 at 9:16 pm |

    Just one reason the rich are getting richer and the middle-class is disappearing. Too many wealthy pay below a living wage and take the rest for themselves.

  7. The Very Last Riddle in the How Well Do You Know Me Series | Clarissa's Blog

    […] I was scrolling down my blogroll, I discovered an article titled “Support Striking Fast Food Workers.” As a former union organizer, I will always stop and read anything related to strikes, so I […]

  8. Friday Links, 8/30/13 | Tutus And Tiny Hats

    […] an Asian-American who finds herself left out of conversations on social justice. -Support striking fast food workers. -A letter to the mixed and tender with roots that tangle. -The myth of the teenage temptress: or […]

  9. Radfem
    Radfem August 30, 2013 at 6:45 pm |

    It’s hard to offshore service jobs, but I can readily believe that McDonald’s will automate the work as soon as it’s cheaper to have machines than people – which could be pretty soon.

    we have jack in the box restaurants with self-cashiers already like you find in grocery and other stores.

    I worked years ago for #1 on the employee dissatisfaction list and I was shoved by a shift supervisor out the drive thru window into a convertible on top of a man and a tray of drinks, getting stuck in the window. The man was very nice, coming in and threatening to beat up the manager. It didn’t happen but he did call the CEO and founder in Anaheim to report it which greatly helped me when I got fed up and sent a long letter to the CEO about how I felt about working at his store. His secretary was sick, he actually opened the letter and talk about a shitstorm in Anaheim. When I was asked about the allegations of the drive thru window, they had his story by then to back me up and I was grateful for that b/c we all know minimum wage employees are all liars, lazy arses and stupid. I mean look how the media portrays people in that profession and people talk about the person being stupid enough only for a Mickey Dees job?

    None of us trusted progressives b/c they weren’t interested in labor violations (of which my store had many from minors’ hours, to health code to safety), they were interested in the CEO’s money he gave to anti-abortion movements. I understand them being upset but don’t use people to get what you want. When you have people needing ambulances due to slip or trip in falls (including one woman who suffered two degree burns from the fryer), it’s hard to think politically about other issues. That needed to be respected.

  10. Radfem
    Radfem August 30, 2013 at 6:51 pm |

    It’s hard to offshore service jobs, but I can readily believe that McDonald’s will automate the work as soon as it’s cheaper to have machines than people – which could be pretty soon.It’s hard to offshore service jobs, but I can readily believe that McDonald’s will automate the work as soon as it’s cheaper to have machines than people – which could be pretty soon.

    Already there with Jack in the Box automating cashier/order service which is the easiest. Drive thru would be logistically harder and that’s about half the customer base. I’d like to see a machine try to put together a famous star or super star but if they’re premade and put in the micro maybe that’d automate it. Friable foods are already pretty much there in most places.

    1. Barnacle Strumpet
      Barnacle Strumpet August 30, 2013 at 7:20 pm |

      Hm, I’m skeptical. We’ve seen how well self-checkouts and the like work in retail–they require at least one human employee to make a transaction go through smoothly in my experience, and usually two or three.

      I’ve taken a look at Jack n the Box’s automation as well. I didn’t see any option for “I don’t want any ****ing cheese on this taco” anywhere so I wonder how popular they’ll be.

      1. Radfem
        Radfem September 1, 2013 at 4:39 pm |

        Yeah the first round of automated checkpoints failed 10 years ago b/c people ring it up, void it out without paying and walk out with free stuff. Then they came back with at least one person supervising. Also authorizing alcohol, cigarette and in California, Rated R or Unrated DVDs which require ID to purchase through that. Also for cold medicines which in many places now are still OTC if you produce photo ID for them.

        Jack in the Box, it’s pretty specific though not for every type of customized order. They were being used when I was there but I only saw them at a store that’s often used for “testing”. Micky Dee’s maybe b/c they’re not as heavy into customizing orders as say, Carls Jr. or Burger King. I don’t see “secret shoppers” using them either since suggestive selling and attentiveness to your customer when they first walk in (i.e. greeting them) is a high portion of the score.

        1. Radfem
          Radfem September 1, 2013 at 4:39 pm |

          That said, if they could automate a way to clean a shake machine, I’m on board for that.

  11. Iamabanana
    Iamabanana August 31, 2013 at 2:29 pm |

    I think as “minimum wage jobs” go, my thinking is this:

    I wouldn’t mind a system where good workers were rewarded for staying with a company by starting them off on a more “minimum” wage (which should still be at least $9 an hour) and then bumping them up to something like $13 or so after a period of time. Maybe go to $11.50 at six months, $13 at twelve … give them real raises after a set period of time (not arbitrarily).

    Managers don’t like to constantly have to hire new people. Customers don’t like constantly dealing with new people who can’t answer their questions or take forever on the register. It seems to me that it would be much better to have a system in place that serves to retain employees to avoid this problem.

    Of course, this makes me an idiot, I guess. I was a member of a union and we were fighting to get our employer to see the merit in raising salaries and not trying to shaft us around every corner. And the higher-ups said they actually preferred having high turnover because it provided our students with “fresh, new teachers.” Meanwhile we were arguing that our students did not like this. And that they preferred seasoned teachers who knew what they were doing. It seems there’s a disconnect between those of us living on planet Earth and those who reside somewhere high above the clouds.

    My idea up above would work, I think. And you would have employees sticking around to get that substantial raise. But then the CEO would decide that no, no one likes seasoned employees. We’ll just fire them at 11 months and hire someone new. Or fire and re-hire the employee. I’ve seen that one done actually, where employees are considered “independent contractors” who must be hired after 12 months of employment. So the place hires them for 11.75 months and then re-hires them again the next month.

    Just as an anecdote, in my last two jobs any raise we received was paltry. In the first one it was 10 cents/hr every year. In the next I received a 12 cent raise after six months and then 18 cents the next year so that I was finally making $9/hr in a city where a studio apartment costs about $1000. When you give such crap raises you’re basically telling the employee, “Oh, you’re still here?”

    tl;dr INVEST IN YOUR EMPLOYEES. It’s good for you, good for them, good for the company and good for the customers!

    1. amblingalong
      amblingalong August 31, 2013 at 7:03 pm |

      tl;dr INVEST IN YOUR EMPLOYEES. It’s good for you, good for them, good for the company and good for the customers!

      I mean, 99% of the reason McDonalds can get away with paying almost nothing is that this isn’t true in every field. In jobs that largely amount to performing the same simple mechanical tasks repeatedly (take order, swipe card, refill deep fryer) there’s very little advantage to having more experienced employees. And when the economy is bad and a ton of people need work, companies can be fairly confident they can rely on having workers even at shitty wages.

  12. Weekly Feminist Reader
    Weekly Feminist Reader September 1, 2013 at 1:00 pm |

    […] Fast food workers continue to strike. […]

  13. Radfem
    Radfem September 1, 2013 at 4:42 pm |

    ooh Carl’s Jr. scored #1 for lowest employee satisfaction, hmmm….why didn’t that surprise me, lol.

  14. Olivia Young
    Olivia Young September 2, 2013 at 10:52 am |

    While I do think workers in these types of jobs should make more, $15 per hour is way too much. I am a college graduate who started out making that much at my first job in the medical field. That’s not an even playing field. If we start paying fast food workers what a college grad makes right out of school, it makes a mockery of those of us who worked our arses off to get that Bachelor’s degree. Not to mention most employers at top firms and doctor’s offices are NOT going to start paying more simply because the minimum wage is raised astronomically. If one wants a better life, a better job, they seek it out. My husband started out at the bottom in his career and now, through sheer hard work, discipline and determination, is climbing that ladder of success higher and higher. There are many in the fast food industry who don’t even have a high school diploma. They don’t deserve to make as much as a kid who’s worked his or her butt off to achieve a higher education. I think $9 an hour is fine. But $15 an hour is unacceptable and unrealistic.

  15. Articles: Week of 9/3/2013 | TFA Nashville Diversity Group

    […] Fast Food Workers Striking: […]

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