Skip to primary navigation Skip to main content

Fighting Back Against Wretched Wages

By:  By Steven Greenhouse
OFTEN relegated to the background, America’s low-wage workers have been making considerable noise lately by deploying an unusual weapon — one-day strikes — to make their message heard: they’re sick and tired of earning just $8, $9, $10 an hour.

Their anger has been stoked by what they see as a glaring disconnect: their wages have flatlined, while median pay for chief executives at the nation’s top corporations jumped 16 percent last year, averaging a princely $15.1 million, according to Equilar, an executive compensation analysis firm.

In recent weeks, workers from McDonald’s, Taco Bell and other fast-food restaurants — many of them part-time employees — have staged one-day walkouts in New York, Chicago, Detroit and Seattle to protest their earnings, typically just $150 to $350 a week, often too little to support themselves and their families. More walkouts are expected at fast-food restaurants in seven cities on Monday. Earlier this month hundreds of low-wage employees working for federal contractors in Washington walked out and picketed along Pennsylvania Avenue to urge President Obama to press their employers to raise wages.

Ana Salvador, who earns $10 an hour after 10 years working at the McDonald’s inside the National Air and Space Museum, wrote Mr. Obama to say that she did not earn enough to support her four children, adding that her family relied on food stamps and Medicaid. Another striker, Karla Quezada, who has worked at the Subway inside the Ronald Reagan Building for 11 years, said that while her employer made “lots of money off of my work, I still only make $9.50 an hour.” This is higher than the $7.25-an-hour federal minimum wage as well as the District of Columbia’s $8.25 minimum — many states have minimums above the federal level — but it isn’t much after more than a decade on the job. In a speech in Galesburg, Ill., last Wednesday aimed at bolstering the middle class, Mr. Obama called for raising the minimum wage.

Continue reading here.