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Look Down Under for Fast-Food Justice at McDonald's

Photo by Cathy Sherwin

Most fast-food and other low-wage workers are back on the job after a series of rolling strikes earlier this month demanding a living wage and the right to join a union without employer retaliation. More strikes are planned around Labor Day. But the struggle continues for economic justice for the workers who earn the minimum wage ($7.25) or just above.

Two articles you may have missed show that boosting the workers' pay to $15 an hour just might not cut into the profits of companies like McDonald's or cost consumers much more for their favorite burger.

Jordan Weissmann, writing for The Atlantic, takes a look at Australia, where the minimum wage for adults is $14.50 an hour and a new agreement exists between McDonald's and the workers’ union—the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association. Not only does the new deal include a 15% wage increase, but many McDonald’s workers Down Under already were earning more than the minimum wage.

In a country where the two key elements of the U.S. workers' demands are met—a living wage and a union—McDonald's 900 or so restaurants are turning a tidy profit. By the way, McDonald's earns more revenue from its European operations, where minimum wages are significantly higher, than the burger giant does in the United States.

What would it cost you if U.S. fast-food chains woke up one day and decided that paying workers a living wage was the right thing to do? Not a whole lot, according to economists Jeannette Wicks-Lim and Robert Pollin who have studied the relationship between wage increases in the fast-food industry and the cost of doing business.

Using their research, the good folks at The Daily Beast developed a “McPoverty” calculator that shows you what just a few cents more out of your pocket for a burger would mean for the paychecks of fast-food workers. Click here to take a look.  

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