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Photo: NC State AFL-CIO

Photo: NC State AFL-CIO

Don’t you just love it when the business lobby and their toadies in the far right think tanks get all misty-eyed about the fate of those poor, poor workers who will supposedly be so much worse off if the minimum wage rises substantially?

You know the rap:

“Hey, it would be great if workers could make much higher wages in industries like fast food, but if they did, the employers would all go out of business and all those workers would be out of jobs. See, it’s those poor, minority kids we really care about. We’re fighting to keep the minimum wage low and maybe even do away with it for their sake.”

The next time someone lays this yarn on you, tell them to check out this article in yesterday’s New York Times about life as a fast food worker in Denmark.  As reporters Liz Alderman and Steve Greenhouse discovered, decent wages and the fast food industry are not at all mutually exclusive:

“On a recent afternoon, Hampus Elofsson ended his 40-hour workweek at a Burger King and prepared for a movie and beer with friends. He had paid his rent and all his bills, stashed away some savings, yet still had money for nights out.

That is because he earns the equivalent of $20 an hour — the base wage for fast-food workers throughout Denmark and two and a half times what many fast-food workers earn in the United States.

‘You can make a decent living here working in fast food,’ said Mr. Elofsson, 24. ‘You don’t have to struggle to get by.’”

Read More

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Today fast food workers from around the world—including folks throughout North Carolina – are rallying for a decent raise (most workers In NC make around the minimum wage of $7.25/hour) and the right to collectively bargain.Greenville NC

And now that the state legislature has reconvened, a handful of state representatives introduced House Joint Resolution 1068 calling for a raise to the minimum wage today as well.

The legislation has been shepherded to the Commerce and Job Development Committee, and we’ll see what happens next. Specifically, let’s see what Rep. Thom Tillis, the speaker of the house and Republican U.S.-Senate candidate, will do about it.

Tillis had previously called the minimum wage an “artificial threshold” and a bid to increase it a “dangerous idea.”

But last week on MSNBC he punted –basically to himself — by saying the rate should be set at the state level.

MSNBC’s Chuck Todd repeatedly asked him if he as state Speaker of the House would be in favor of raising the minimum wage in North Carolina, and Tillis couldn’t bring himself to answer that question.

Tillis probably knows that  73 percent of people believe it’s time to raise the wage. Let’s see what he’ll do about it.

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Fast food workers 2Fast food workers are protesting the rampant wage theft by employers in their industry this week. There will be protests in Raleigh, Greensboro and Charlotte tomorrow. Check the bottom of this post for details.

This is from the folks at the Southern Workers Organizing Committee:

Workers Speak Out Against McWage Theft

On March 13, workers in 3 states filed a historic class action lawsuit against McDonald’s revealing that McDonald’s — one of the largest corporations in the world — has been committing rampant wage theft against its employees. Whether its forcing workers to work off the clock, not paying workers for overtime, or forcing workers to pay back register shortages out of pocket, fast food workers are getting robbed on the job.

On Tuesday, local McDonald’s workers will be coming forward to tell their own stories of having their wages stolen, on top of struggling to survive on poverty wages. Read More
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If you’re planning on heading out for a fast food meal today, you might want to check out this petition being advanced by the good folks at the Campaign for America’s Future entitled “Tell McDonald’s to stop buying luxury jets until they pay their workers a l;iving wage.” As the post notes:

“More than half of low-wage workers employed by the largest U.S. fast-food restaurants earn so little that they must rely on public assistance to get by.

McDonald’s is the worst offender, costing taxpayers $1.2 billion in poverty benefits for its employees. McDonald’s claims that they operate on razor-thin profit margins and can’t pay a living wage.

Yet they announced they had bought yet another brand new $35 million corporate jet for their fleet.”

And speaking of fat cats living large while others go hungry, Read More

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Fast food workersRaleigh’s News & Observer published an outstanding think piece by Kevin Rogers of Action NC today udner the headline “The high cost of fast-food’s low wages.” Rogers’ headline was simpler: “McWelfare.” 

As you can see below, either one works.

I recently met Willietta Dukes, a mother of two and fast-food employee in Durham, North Carolina. Willietta makes $7.85 at Burger King, despite 16 years of experience in the fast-food industry. In August, tired of struggling to get by, she walked off her job, just a month after losing her home because she could no longer afford rent payments. Despite working hard for as many hours as she gets from Burger King, Willietta is forced to rely on food stamps just to make ends meet.

Willietta is not alone. Research released this week finds that more than half – 52% – of fast-food workers nationwide are paid so little that the public needs to provide assistance to make sure workers can afford basic, everyday needs. In other words, fast-food employees are twice as likely as other workers to be forced to rely on programs like the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (food stamps) or Medicaid. Read More