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July 29, 2013 protest at McDonald's in New York City
Minimum wage by U.S. state, the District of Columbia, and territory versus the federal rate of $7.25 per hour as of March 29, 2019:[1]
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The Fight for $15 is an American political movement advocating for the minimum wage to be raised to $15 (United States dollars) per hour. The federal minimum wage was set at $7.25 per hour in 2009 (equivalent to $8.64 in 2019, so the purchasing power of $7.25 has reduced by $1.44 since 2009, "[2]),[3] and as of 2020 it has not been increased since. The movement has involved strikes by child care, home healthcare, airport, gas station, convenience store, and fast food workers for increased wages and the right to form a labor union. The "Fight for $15" movement started in 2012 (equivalent to $16.7 in 2019, or $18.93 as a constant portion of per-capita GDP),[3] in response to workers' inability to cover their costs on such a low salary, as well as the stressful work conditions of many of the service jobs which pay the minimum wage.

The movement has seen successes on the state and local level. California, Massachusetts, New York (downstate only), Maryland, New Jersey, Illinois, Connecticut, and Florida have passed laws that gradually raise their state minimum wage to at least $15 per hour.[4] Major cities such as San Francisco, New York City and Seattle, where the cost of living is significantly higher, have already raised their municipal minimum wage to $15 per hour with some exceptions. On the federal level, the $15 proposal has become significantly more popular among Democratic politicians in the past few years, and was added to the party's platform in 2016 after Bernie Sanders advocated it in his presidential campaign.[5] As of 2019, the Raise the Wage Act, which would gradually raise the wage to $15 dollars per hour, is cosponsored by 181 members of the minimum wage to be raised to $15 (United States dollars) per hour. The federal minimum wage was set at $7.25 per hour in 2009 (equivalent to $8.64 in 2019, so the purchasing power of $7.25 has reduced by $1.44 since 2009, "[2]),[3] and as of 2020 it has not been increased since. The movement has involved strikes by child care, home healthcare, airport, gas station, convenience store, and fast food workers for increased wages and the right to form a labor union. The "Fight for $15" movement started in 2012 (equivalent to $16.7 in 2019, or $18.93 as a constant portion of per-capita GDP),[3] in response to workers' inability to cover their costs on such a low salary, as well as the stressful work conditions of many of the service jobs which pay the minimum wage.

The movement has seen successes on the state and local level. California, Massachusetts, New York (downstate only), Maryland, New Jersey, Illinois, Connecticut, and Florida have passed laws that gradually raise their state minimum wage to at least $15 per hour.[4] Major cities such as San Francisco, New York City and Seattle, where the cost of living is significantly higher, have already raised their municipal minimum wage to $15 per hour with some exceptions. On the federal level, the $15 proposal has become significantly more popular among Democratic politicians in the past few years, and was added to the party's platform in 2016 after Bernie Sanders advocated it in his presidential campaign.[5] As of 2019, the Raise the Wage Act, which would gradually raise the wage to $15 dollars per hour, is cosponsored by 181 members of the House of Representatives and 31 senators.[6]

Another strike took place in November 2015.[34] U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) voiced his support for the striking workers and a $15 an hour federal minimum wage at a Fight for $15 rally in Washington DC.[35][36]

[37] The strikes took place in 230 cities as workers demanded a $15 minimum wage and the right to unionize without fear of retaliation.[38] Less than a week later, a mass protest at McDonald's headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois took place and resulted in over 100 protesters being arrested, including workers, church leaders and Service Employees International Union president Mary Kay Henry, and a partial shutdown of the McDonald's campus.[39] According to the movement organizers, the protest took place in 30 cities in Japan, 5 cities in Brazil, 3 cities in India and 20 cities in Britain.[40] The labor federation with over 12 million workers in 126 countries joined the protest to help propel the effort.[40]

Industry officials say that only a small percentage of fast-food jobs pay the minimum wage and that those are largely entry-level jobs for workers under 25. Backers of the movement for higher pay point to studies saying that the average age of fast food workers is 29 and that more than one-fourth are parents raising children.[41] According to Mary Kay Henry, the president of service employees international union "fast food workers in many other parts of the world face the same corporate policy. Low pay, no guaranteed hours and no benefits". According to her, such unfairness in the wages exist due to the lack of opportunity for these workers to unionize.[42] According to one of McDonald's workers, the minimum wages is not enough to take care of his kids and their education. However, some analysts[who?] say that increasing the wages will have harmful consequences on the hiring rate which could cause a large number of unemployed people.[Industry officials say that only a small percentage of fast-food jobs pay the minimum wage and that those are largely entry-level jobs for workers under 25. Backers of the movement for higher pay point to studies saying that the average age of fast food workers is 29 and that more than one-fourth are parents raising children.[41] According to Mary Kay Henry, the president of service employees international union "fast food workers in many other parts of the world face the same corporate policy. Low pay, no guaranteed hours and no benefits". According to her, such unfairness in the wages exist due to the lack of opportunity for these workers to unionize.[42] According to one of McDonald's workers, the minimum wages is not enough to take care of his kids and their education. However, some analysts[who?] say that increasing the wages will have harmful consequences on the hiring rate which could cause a large number of unemployed people.[citation needed]

Julie Sherry, an organizer of the protests in the United Kingdom, which have taken place on several occasions since January, projected that 100 workers would meet at 4pm London time at the McDonald's in Trafalgar Square. They planned to carry signs declaring, "Fast Food Rights" and "Hungry for Justice" and to chant, "Zero Hours, No Way" — a reference to contracts in the UK that an estimated 90% of McDonald's workers have signed that don't guarantee them any hours but expect workers to come in whenever they are called.[43] Organizers say that in the Philippines, workers held a flash mob inside a Manila McDonald's, singing and dancing to "Let It Go," from the movie Frozen, urging McDonald's to "let go" of its low wages and allow workers to organize.[44] Protesters in Brussels shut down a McDonald's at lunchtime, and protesters in Mumbai who were threatened with arrests by local police were undeterred. Japan saw protests in nearly every prefecture and showed solidarity with U.S. workers by calling on McDonald's to pay Japanese workers 1,500 Yen.[44]

This is not the first time that the workers protested against the low wages. On November 29, 2012 about 200 workers protested at a McDonald's at Madison Avenue and 40th Street chanting "Hey, hey, what do you say? We demand fair pay".[45] According to Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations, the workers global campaign is not a new idea. To determine the origins of this approach, you have to take a trip back to the 1800s, when workers in Britain and India jointly protested the way the East India Company treated its Indian workers.[46]

Some economists and labor activists are looking to the Danish socioeconomic model, with its powerful unions and living wages for fast-food workers, as evidence that companies can adapt in nations that have high wage floors, and that such a model can serve as an example to the United States. According to John Schmitt of the Center for Economic and Policy Research: "We see from Denmark that it's possible to run a profitable fast-food business while paying workers these kinds of wages." Stephen J. Caldeira, President and CEO of the International Franchise Association, an organization that has many fast-food companies as members, strongly disagrees and claims that "trying to compare the business and labor practices in Denmark and the U.S. is like comparing apples to autos."[47]

A January 2015 study by economists at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst found that fast food companies could absorb an incremental wage hike from $7.25 to $15 without shedding jobs by reducing turnover and slightly increasing prices.[48]

Affected Industries

Restaurant Industry

The impact on employers and workers within the restaurant industry is a major focus of the Fight for $15 movement. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, restaurants and other food services employ about sixty percent of all workers paid at or below the minimum wage, as of 2018.The impact on employers and workers within the restaurant industry is a major focus of the Fight for $15 movement. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, restaurants and other food services employ about sixty percent of all workers paid at or below the minimum wage, as of 2018.[49] Common responses to minimum wage increases include restaurant operators cutting employee hours and raising menu prices.[50] In cities such as New York City and Seattle that have already implemented a $15 minimum wage for most businesses, menu price increases have been a trend.[51] Politicians, economists, restaurant owners and workers continue to debate the economic viability and benefits of a federally mandated $15 minimum wage.

Economists of the Economic Policy Institute have largely come out in support of a $15 federal minimum wage.[52] Their outlined plan entails a gradual increase, reaching $15 by 2024. Fast-food restaurants are a key focus in the Fight for $15 movement. Some argue that turnover reductions, trend increases in sales growth, and modest annual price increases would allow for this bump in minimum wage without forcing the restaurants to shed employees.[53] While most advocates acknowledge rising prices as a re

Economists of the Economic Policy Institute have largely come out in support of a $15 federal minimum wage.[52] Their outlined plan entails a gradual increase, reaching $15 by 2024. Fast-food restaurants are a key focus in the Fight for $15 movement. Some argue that turnover reductions, trend increases in sales growth, and modest annual price increases would allow for this bump in minimum wage without forcing the restaurants to shed employees.[53] While most advocates acknowledge rising prices as a result of the higher wages, they generally accept this outcome and believe it will not have a major negative impact on dining/overall sales. Advocates for the movement also point to research that finds the average estimated employment effect of minimum wage increases to be very small.[54]

A common argument against raising the minimum wage in restaurants to $15 is that it could cause cuts to employee hours, as well as potential layoffs or restaurant closures.[50] Increases in restaurant prices is another impact opponents cite as a reason to be cautious when considering a federal minimum wage adjustment. While economists are divided on this issue, many who oppose a $15 minimum wage believe employers will seek out workers with greater skills for entry-level positions, hurting many low-wage workers today such as fast-food employees.[55] Some economists argue that with a higher minimum wage, restaurants will replace workers with robots and automation.[56]

Waiters, bartenders, and other food service workers who primarily work for tips may utilize the federal tipped minimum wage, which is currently $2.13 an hour. A tip credit is the difference between their minimum wage and the cash wage an employee is paid during a pay period, accounting for tips that do not add up to the federal minimum wage. Many advocates for a $15 minimum wage, including restaurant owners, believe that restaurants should get rid of the tip credit pay structure, as they find it is not beneficial to low wage restaurant workers.[57]

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 11,302,000 workers in the retail industry were paid hourly rates at or below the federal minimum wage in 2018.[58] Retail workers account for a significant portion of those affected by the minimum wage, as major retailers such as Target and Walmart are a big focus on this issue. Recently, some companies, including Target and Best Buy, have committed to boost their starting hourly wage to $15 am hour, regardless of local/federal minimum wage mandates.[59][60] As pressure grows, more stores are increasing their hourly rates both to satisfy political/social demands, while also benefiting from happier, more productive workers.[61]

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