Fast-Food Workers Strike for Higher Pay


Fast-Food Workers Strike for Higher Pay
As many as 500 workers from fast-food restaurants across New York City are set to strike. Low-wage workers from McDonald’s, Wendy’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Domino’s Pizza, and Papa John’s Pizza are asking for $15 an hour and the right to form a union.

The median pay for fast-food workers In New York City is about about $9/hour.Photograph by Steve Raymer
The median pay for fast-food workers In New York City is about about $9/hour.
Photograph by Steve Raymer

Discussion Ideas:

  • New York follows the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour. Many fast-food workers are paid the minimum wage, but wages can vary. One cashier mentioned in the article works for $7.70/hour, while many others work for $9/hour. Assuming all these workers have the same responsibilities, why do students think their wages vary?
    • Individual franchise owners can set their wages higher than the required minimum wage, and determine if and when employees are given raises.
  • Look at our map of the minimum wage across the United States. The federal minimum wage is $7.25/hour, meaning employers cannot pay workers less than $7.25/hour. States can, however, set their own minimum wage at a higher level, meaning businesses in that state have to pay the higher state minimum wage. Does your state follow the federal minimum wage? If not, what is your state’s minimum wage?
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wage in the U.S. is $16.71. Using this table provided by the BLS, can students determine what occupation has the lowest median hourly wage in the nation? (Students can click on the “median hourly wage” column, so occupations are listed from lowest to highest.)
    • Fast food workers have the lowest median hourly wage in the nation, between $8.78 and $8.80.
  • Using the same table, what occupation has the highest median hourly wage?
    • Psychiatrists, whose median hourly wage is $83.33.
  • Fast-food workers in New York City are striking for a higher minimum wage, $15/hour. This wage would still fall below the median hourly wage in the U.S., $16.71. Using the same table, can students find some other occupations that have median hourly wages of about $15/hour?
    • miscellaneous installation, maintenance, and repair workers
    • coin, vending, and amusement machine servicers and repairers
    • machine setters, operators, and tenders
  • Read our activity “Introduction to Unions and Alliances,” where a union is defined as a group of people that joins together to work toward common goals. What common goals shared by the striking fast-food workers?
    • higher minimum wage
    • right to organize and ask for better pay or benefits without retaliation or intimidation

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