Thousands of workers in the fast food industry walked out of their restaurants Monday, demanding $15 dollars an hour and the right to form a union without retribution. The protests started in New York City, and will continue this week in Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Mo., and Flint, Mich..
The protesters from chains like McDonald’s and Wendy’s chanted, "No more burgers. No more fries. Make our wages super-sized," according to NY1 news. Most fast food workers make minimum wage—$7.25 an hour—and are asking for a 100 percent increase.
New York Communities for Change, Jobs with Justice and Action Now, and the Service Employees International Union support the strikes. Fast food and retail workers also protested in April of this year, and the protesters’ sentiments echo those of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn supported the strike: “Working conditions clearly are not being respected. … They need a union to make sure this type of mistreatment comes to an end.”
But some economists say that if the protesters get what they want, they could be striking themselves out of a job.
“If you raise the cost of hiring workers, fewer will be hired,” wrote Doug Bandow of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). He said rather than helping the workers most in need, a high minimum wage prevents the most disadvantaged from starting toward financial success. “If you raise the salary that must be paid, employers will reject those with the least skills, education, and training. If there is one issue about which economists agree, it is that the minimum wage destroys jobs.”
Higher minimum wages could hurt the growth of the leisure and hospitality industry, which is currently the fastest growing sector in the United States. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the sector added 75,000 jobs in June.
Economist Ryan Young of CEI said high minimum wages are popular but ill-advised: “The trouble is that millions of people can be wrong. … Some workers will be shown the door, cutting their hourly pay to literally nothing. Other workers will never be hired in the first place.”