The Volatile Fast Food Worker Pay Rate Debate

Every day, millions of people across America pass through a fast food drive through or stop inside places like McDonald’s or Carl’s Junior for a quick bite to eat. The fast food industry shows no signs of being crippled or even daunted by recent science suggesting that foods like processed carbs and sugar and vegetable oil may be fueling diseases like obesity and diabetes. But whether or not we should be eating all that fast food is a debate for another day. Today, we want to address whether or not fast food workers deserve a pay rate increase.

Research shows that workers at restaurants like McDonald’s typically earn minimum wage… or slightly above in some locations. Supporting yourself, much less a family, on minimum wage would be challenging, even in a city where the cost of living is relatively low. Imagine, however, trying to live on minimum wage in New York City.

According to a recent New York Times article, 20 year old Julia Andino faces that exact challenge. Not surprisingly, Andino’s McDonald’s wages do not stretch far enough to pay her rent, child care, bus pass, and other bills. So Andino, and thousands of others like her, are asking companies like McDonald’s to provide a substantial raise.

Believe it or not, some fast food companies are actually listening.

In February, Walmart announced that it will increase pay for half a million employees to $9 an hour… with a further increase to $10 an hour by next February. Following Walmart’s announcement, the owner of TJMaxx, Marshalls, and Homegoods also agreed to a pay increase to $9 an hour for employees. Retail giant Target followed suit and announced a similar deal.
While these recently announced wage increases are a positive sign, service workers are not content to settle for a nominal increase in pay. A growing movement demands that these workers earn $15 an hour. Rallies aimed at getting McDonald’s to raise pay rates are planned in over 200 cities for April 15th. As low income workers across the country continue to organize and demand to be heard, the pay raise debate may boil over to become one of the most pronounced issues in the upcoming Presidential nomination debate.

Joseph & Kirschenbaum, LLP has successfully represented restaurant workers and service workers in diverse industries in many nationally prominent wage and hour cases. Call us today at 1 (212) 688-5640, or email us at, to schedule a free and totally confidential intake call about your situation.

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