Thousands of fast-food workers across the country walked off the job this week to protest for higher wages at restaurants like McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken, the third such strike this year.
Protesters are asking for $15 an hour — a 66 percent bump from the average $9.02 earned by a fast-food cook — and the right to unionize without retaliation from employers.
Their cause has some powerful supporters. During a speech on the economy at Knox College in Illinois last week, President Obama reiterated his view that minimum wage should rise to $9 an hour, from $7.25 an hour, and that it should be automatically adjusted with inflation, so that wages rise with the cost of living.
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"Because no one who works full-time in America should have to live in poverty, I am going to keep making the case that we need to raise the minimum wage — because it's lower right now than it was when Ronald Reagan took office. It's time for the minimum wage to go up," he boomed.
But Congress is nowhere near a vote on this issue. "On their last week before vacation, Congress isn't likely to raise the minimum wage. They're not even close to critical mass on that issue," says CNN. "There aren't any votes scheduled any time soon and it hasn't yet had a hearing in the House of Representatives this year."
Which leaves the issue upto the employers — the fast-food giants that set the wages in the first place. As Jena McGregor at The Washington Post argues, these businesses have some incentives to hike wages, even without pressure from Congress:
But is that realistic? Hannah Ridge at PolicyMic says, "There is limited economic incentive for the companies to increase their wages":
However, some argue that raising wages would not significantly hurt the bottom line or raise prices for consumers. The Huffington Post reports that doubling the salaries of all workers at McDonald's — including its CEO — would cause the cost of a Big Mac to rise by a mere 68 cents.
Henry Blodget at Business Insider notes that McDonald's would still make a healthy profit if it bore those additional costs, and argues that there's an opportunity for McDonald's and other fast-food chains to please everyone:
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