Is A $15 Minimum Wage For Fast Food Workers A Realistic Goal?

On December 5th, 2013, hundreds of fast food workers walked off their jobs in order to protest for higher wages. The walk out was sponsored by Fast Food Forward, which is currently campaigning for an increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour, more than double the current Federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Needless to say, when I heard what the organization was pushing for, I was a bit intrigued.

Burger King workers striking at 971 Flatbush Ave in Brooklyn.

Burger King workers striking at 971 Flatbush Ave in Brooklyn.

I recently wrote about the Washington D.C. Councils push for a living wage increase to $12.50 for large retailers in the city. The  Large Retailer Accountability Act was approved by the city council over the summer, and later vetoed by D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray. Unfortunately the council was not able to garner enough votes to override the veto, so the bill was finally defeated in the early fall. I was disappointed in the decision as I supported the increase in the minimum wage; which targeted only specific retailers.

Fast Food Forward is looking to increase the minimum wage across the board in New York, but to be completely honest and fair…$15 per hour is an unrealistic number to be pushing for in our current economic climate. I hate to sound sarcastic, but is flipping burgers a skill that demands that kind of a wage increase? I also understand that trying to make ends meet on a minimum wage salary is nearly impossible, and there are some employees who are working for those wages and are living below what the Department of Health & Human Services guidelines on poverty are based on family size.

Currently President Obama is supporting a push in the Senate to bring the Federal minimum wage up from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour. Personally, I think that is a more realistic figure for minimum wage, but that increase comes at a cost. An increase in the minimum wage now may be good for some but detrimental for others. By raising the minimum wage, demand for labor will inevitably decrease and people will lose their jobs. The increase will also mean an increase in the cost of producing goods and services, which in turn; will translate into higher prices for consumers. But hey, it’s not all bad news; those employees working for minimum wage (who get to keep their jobs) will be making a higher rate. Now, I’m no economic strategist by any means, but I think the focus should be on job creation and more specifically middle class jobs, which will increase the market demand for labor as well as wages along with it.

I still hold true to my call for large corporate employers to exude a higher standard for Corporate Social Responsibility, and take the initiative by investing in their employees and the communities in which they operate. Sadly, wages are a numbers game, and it’s a buyers market for employers in today’s labor market.

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