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Time for $15 an Hour and a Union

| April 9, 2019

minimum wage

Not just Los Angeles. (Shutterstock)

By Negin Owliaei

Last month, McDonald’s announced a dramatic about-face in its political priorities. After years of strikes and protests from labor activists, the burger giant has decided to end its involvement in lobbying campaigns against increasing America’s paltry $7.25 federal minimum wage.

It’s a big victory for the Fight for $15.

It’s been less than a decade since a few hundred fast-food employees walked off the job to demand a $15 wage and a union. Now, they’re a global movement that’s fundamentally changed the conversation on the rights of low-wage workers.

For the most part, federal lawmakers have watched idly while cities and states have boosted their minimum wages up to $15. Just last month, Maryland became the sixth state — and the third just this year — to phase in a $15 minimum wage after lawmakers overrode Republican Governor Larry Hogan’s veto.

But the idea now has more traction in Congress thanks to the recently introduced Raise the Wage Act, which would set a national minimum pay of $15 an hour by 2024. The legislation would lift pay for almost 40 million workers, the Economic Policy Institutehas found.

As the push for higher wages continues to gain steam across the country, the movement promises to keep fighting: Workers greeted the new announcement from McDonald’s with more protests.

It’s not enough to decide, they say, that you “wish to advance, not impede” the discussion on a livable wage by simply ending your campaign against an enormously popular policy.

other-wordsEmployees are still calling on the fast food franchise pay $15 an hour and respect their right to unionize. That’s a pretty fair demand, considering their CEO made nearly $22 million in 2017 — over 3,100 times what the typical McDonald’s employee took home that year. They’re also continuing their fight to make the company take workplace harassment seriously.

McDonald’s is often — and rightfully — portrayed as a villain in the fight for fair wages and workplace protections. But it’s also only one player in an economy that continues to tighten its chokehold on anyone who works for a living.

Raising the federal minimum wage is one necessary change we can make to a system that throws endless amounts of money towards the rich while balking at workers’ demands to be able to live off their earnings.

How can we begin to imagine the inequity baked into that system?

Take a look at Wall Street’s bonus culture to see just how warped our economy has become. Last year, Wall Street employees took home $27.5 billion in bonuses alone. That pool of money could pay all of the United States’ full-time minimum wage workers more than three times over, a new report from the Institute for Policy Studies has found.

Those bonuses mean the average Wall Street employee added $153,700 to their base pay in 2018 — a truly mind-boggling sum of money that’s increased by 1,000 percent since 1985. If the minimum wage had grown at that rate, McDonald’s workers would be making over $33 an hour today.

These staggering numbers go a long way toward illuminating how stark the concentration of wealth and power has become in this country. They also highlight the enormity of the task of remaking our economic system so that it works for everyone, not just CEOs and Wall Street bankers.

But, thanks to Fight for $15, we’ve been given a clear place to start: $15 and a union.

Negin Owliaei is a researcher at the Institute for Policy Studies and a co-editor of

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26 Responses for “Time for $15 an Hour and a Union”

  1. John DeWitt says:

    I could write a book why $15 is a bad idea but instead offer this simple video:

  2. Carol says:

    I agree John. People don’t realize that once minimum wage goes up to $15.00 an hour, food prices go up, gas goes up, everything goes up. Then you have people losing their jobs or getting their full time hours cut to part time; guess they didn’t think about that. It’s the domino affect.

  3. ConstantlyAmazed says:

    Wow I didn’t know these fast food employees were forced to work for minimum wage and no union. I guess having no education, nose rings, neck tattoos, addiction problems and a criminal record, multiple kids from different fathers and the uncanny knack for screwing up a simple food order prevented them from working at a law office, bank or performing surgery.

  4. Mark says:

    No worries, we will all be gone by 2036. These emotional people have no idea about the unintended consequences that their demands will result in. Raised costs of living, replaced by robots, higher prices for Big Macs, etc. But, to hell with the consequences, give me what I want!

  5. Common Sense says:

    Just like the tariffs are passed on to the consumer… so will the economic financial harm of minimum wage. Businesses run based on what they pay their employees and the price of goods is also dependent upon this. Raise it at a national level and the cost of EVERYTHING goes up and that ‘raise’ the lower income individuals just recurved levels right back out to where that person was previously at. But those individuals don’t want to see or understand that.

  6. Pogo says:

    @Negin Owliaei

    Well said – I could write a book about why $15 is a great idea, but Bank of America expressed it well with action today:

    Bank of America is raising its minimum wage for employees to $20 an hour
    Published Tue, Apr 9 2019 • 7:49 AM EDT Updated Tue, Apr 9 2019 • 2:09 PM EDT

  7. Agkistrodon says:

    So you get 15 bucks an hour, the UNION takes a portion of that and UNIONS, for the MOST part ONLY give money to DEMOCRATS. So as a NON DEMOCRAT AND a NON REPUBLICAN, Why on earth would I want to be part of ANY union? The problem with unions is they treat all employees as if they are GOOD employees, and that is OT always the case. I would rather make decisions for MYSELF. And that is coming from someone who was at one time, part of a union.

  8. Joe says:

    “It’s the domino affect.” – How many have considered another domino effect? Millions of people with more take-home pay would be able to afford more things- like gas, food, clothing, car repair, health care, education, etc. How many businesses would appreciate a suddenly much larger customer base? How would the economy benefit by the increased economic activity?
    I know the blessing of having a well-paying job -not rich by any means, but enough to live comfortably – I would not mind at all paying slightly higher prices to allow working people a higher wage. Many of them work much harder than the rich parasites who have been robbing us blind for years.
    The income inequality in this country is a disgrace and is only getting worse. Middle class people have to wake up – the trickle-down BS you’ ve been buying has not worked.

  9. Mary Fusco says:

    You have to love America. $15 an hour for flipping a frozen burger. If you want a well paying job, get an education. I would wonder if our college educated teachers are making that much.

  10. oldtimer says:

    ENTRY level jobs were never meant to be the be all to end all. You start at the bottom and work your way up that is how it works.If the fry guy gets $15 what does the owner get paid ? Think people,we can’t all start at the middle. If fast food doesn’t pay enough do what I did LEARN A TRADE !

  11. Michael Cocchiola says:

    I cannot believe people here on FlaglerLive – and in this very wealthy country – who are speaking out against an increase to a still very modest $15 an hour minimum wage. Are they so pernicious that they’d deny minimum wage earners – young and old – a chance to buy food and pay the rent? Are they so worried that McDonald’s and the Golden (Trough?) Corral will raise their prices a few pennies? Are they so concerned that minimum wage workers will move next door? What drives some people to fear and hold in contempt those less fortunate?

    Bet these folks just love Trump and the wealth he represents.

  12. People are trying hard says:

    Workers should make a living wage.. if folks had to pay an extra dollar for their McStuffin maybe they would try a vegetable every once in a while…

    @ Mary— think about your comment. Like break it down for a second. “If you want a well paying job, get an education.” Followed immediately by “I wonder if our educated teachers are making that much”. Proof right there that education doesn’t always pay. Also it is not just flipping a frozen burger, it is dealing with the ‘public’ and a quick stroll through the comments here reveals that a lot of the public are entitled and believe their $3 hamburger should be served with white gloves…

    Y’all scratched out your piece of paradise and now you are deathly afraid anyone else is going to get that same opportunity.

  13. Mikey Eyes says:

    If raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour is the answer. Then why not make minimum wage $30, $40, $50 per hour? Most people can see why a minimum of 30,40,50 per hour is ridiculous. Apply the same reasoning to $15 per hour. The cost of living goes up! Nothing is solved!!

  14. atilla says:

    The law was pasted in a western state to $15 dollars an hour and the employees wanted their hours cut in half because they would make too much money and the government would reduce or eliminate their entitlements. Then the employer would have to double his work force. Now there’s something wrong with this way of thinking.

  15. Michael Cocchiola says:

    Mikey Eyes… that’s a false narrative. “Why not” is the refuge of the uninformed, the narrow-minded, and yes, the conservative base. $15 is not $30 or $40 or anything else. It is a number that puts a family of four at the poverty level. It is the level that keeps a post-highschooler going until something better comes along. It will keep the household in food when a spouse dies. Go ahead, tell me again what’s wrong with this.

  16. Agkistrodon says:

    Michael would you still be for those Unions if they ONLY donated to the GOP or say the NRA? There are two parts to this issue, you are Only looking at ONE.

  17. snapperhead says:

    Minimum wage should be raised at the federal level but index it to inflation and if states and cities want to make it higher than let them and let the chips fall where they may. $15 an hour in New York or Seattle doesn’t go as far as $15 an hour in Podunk Mississippi. If you don’t think we’re already paying for such a low minimum wage then you’re a dope. Food stamps, housing subsidies, free school lunch, medicaid etc etc are all by products of low wage families. And the fallacy that everyone can get a higher education and high paying jobs is bunk. The Home Depot’s, Walmarts, McDonalds etc of the world are always going to need low/semi skilled workers and teens can’t fill all those jobs.

  18. larry krasner says:

    I’d prefer to see a graduated minimum wage scale to differentiate between adults and teens and education levels, A full time adult with a family should earn more than a part-time 16-year-old with no experience. And more to people with a high school degree than those without; let’s encourage kids to stay in school!!!

    Something like:
    $17 full-time adult with HS degree
    $16 part-time adult with HS degree
    $15 full-time adult without HS degree
    $14 part time employee without HS degree
    $13 part-time teen

  19. concerned citizen says:

    15 dollars an hour at Mc Donalds hmmm, Now we have those in trade jobs, semi professionals with college degrees with years of experience earning this amount per hour. Yes we do, I know that for a fact. So, the hamburger flipper gets the 15, what do you think those with semi professional/professional occupations are going to want? Its only fair? If you can have a low responsibility job and get 15 bucks an hour what about CNAs firefighters, police officers, entry level teachers can expect? These occupations carry in some cases life and death situations, some in dangerous work environments or huge responsibility with our children. They need to be treated fairly as well. Just something to wrap your head around…….

  20. hawkeye says:

    I have to agree with constantly amazed,except for the fact that its not just fast food employees,I see these type of morons in many other places besides mcdonalds or steak and shake.It seems like the more face tattoos, nose and lip rings,purple hair, hair long on one side and shaved on the other ,move slower than a sloth on Quaaludes,etc, the less a person is capable of doing any job, I see people working that dont even deserve $5 dollars an hour,sad to say ,however its the truth. And dont get me started on unions, they only protect the worst workers.

  21. Deb says:

    IT works like this, the minimum wage goes up, and so does the price of goods, not to mention a few layoffs to balance out the equation.

  22. Bill says:

    What those who want minimum wage to be 15 an hour dont seem to get is that MINIMUM wage no matter what the #$ will always be MINIMUM. All others will get more $ prices will go UP so you now make $15 an hour but are in the same place as before. If not worse off.

  23. Bunnellian says:

    Let the free market decide.

  24. snapperhead says:

    So let me see if I understand the logic some espouse here. If minimum wage goes up then the costs of goods and services go up. Using that logic, no one, minimum wage or not should ever get a raise because the costs of goods and services goes up. How many of you have refused a raise because it would raise the cost of goods or services?

  25. Bluefish says:

    The low end people always get the short end if the stick. Let them mandate the minimum wage to 15 and watch all those jobs disappear via robots. Robot would be cheaper when you factor in benefits, workers comp, unemployment, lawsuits, sick days ect on top of the 15 dollars to provide menial tasks such as taking orders or shaking fries. Then they will be complaining there is no job for them, which is highly likely in the future. Most places run 50 to 60 percent today in labor costs. I think were gonna need a better plan.

  26. Brad says:

    Last month McDonalds announced they will be adding robotics throughout all stores nation wide. Primary driving factor is increased labor costs. Thank you for service lifelong mcds people.

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