November 18, 2013
By Stephanie West
An article in The Wall Street Journal highlighted the two-track recovery that's led low-wage workers across the country to call for decent wages. While top earners and corporations have recovered from the recession, most Americans, especially low-wage workers, have not experienced any recovery. Wages have stagnated and more Americans working full time are struggling to make ends meet — that Annie Lowrey wrote in the New York Times Magazine that perhaps Americans should consider a minimum income like the one being debated in Switzerland.
She wrote, "Absurd as a minimum income might seem to bootstrapping Americans, one already exists in a way — McDonald's knows it." That's part of the reason a New York Times editorial last week argued that $15 an hour is entirely justified: "The problem is that the benefits of that growth [in productivity] have flowed increasingly to profits, shareholders and executives, not workers. The result has been bigger returns to capital, higher executive pay — and widening income inequality."
Fast-food workers' fight for 15 got another boost this week, when Los Angeles and Bay-area fast-food workers testified before a joint hearing of the California Senate and Assembly labor committees on the public cost of low wages in the fast-food industry, and the committees pledged to investigate this issue further. Ken Jacobs, co-author of the Berkeley report finding that low-wages at fast-food restaurants leave California taxpayers footing a $717 million bill, penned an op-ed in The Sacramento Bee. He wrote, "Low pay and a falling wage floor in growing industries like food service creates costs for all of us. Fast-food workers like John D'Amanda are demanding a raise. We should listen to them."
In light of the Berkeley report, Bloomberg View columnists Barry Ritholtz called for changes to public assistance programs to ensure large corporations like the McDonald's and Walmart — the two biggest welfare queens — don't rely on taxpayer dollars to make up for their basement wages. He wrote, "My politics are pretty middle-of-the-road, and I find myself offended by subsidizing profitable companies this way. As a taxpayer, there are much better things I would like to see my monies go toward." It's no surprise to see these two profitable companies singled out since McDonald's and Walmart also were the top two worst offenders in a 247wallst.com list of the "Ten Companies Paying Americans the Least," with a special appearance in the top five by Yum! Brands, owner of Taco Bell and Pizza Hut.