While McDonald’s managed to shave over $11.6 million-the amount of “performance pay” heaped onto CEO Donald Thompson’s compensation-off of its tax expenses last year, Tina, who works at one of the chains’ restaurants in Manchester, Connecticut, was living out of her car and struggling to survive on the $8.25 hourly wage that prompted her and a group of 40-50 fast food industry employees to swarm into a New Haven Dunkin Donuts on Thursday afternoon demanding a $15 an hour minimum.
“I don’t think that’s right,” Tina said through a megaphone to her fellow protesters-McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts workers who turned out for the nation-wide fast food employee strike. “$8.25 is not a livable wage.”
Especially when you have a family, as Kevin-a Dunkin Donuts employee from Hartford- knows all too well.
“I’m trying to make a decent living on minimum wage,” Kevin said during a pre-protest rally held at Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church on Whalley Avenue. “I have three kids to support-enough is enough.”
America might not actually “run on Dunkin”, but it might not be too farfetched to say the opposite, as U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal put it.
“Folks that are not paying fairly are really working against themselves,” Blumenthal told the crowd of strikers outside Saint Luke’s. “Who’s going to buy their products if nobody can afford it? You’re here battling not only for yourselves, but the hundreds, thousands, millions of working men and women across the country. Fair pay is fundamental to America.”
And what’s fair is-at the very least-what’s livable, said Benjamin Phillips, Communication Director of the Service Employees International Union’s Hartford chapter.
“On $15 an hour, you would be able to support a family and not have to live on food stamps,” Phillips said at the rally.
That’s better for everyone, since taxpayers are left to pick up the tab when companies such as McDonald’s are not paying its employees enough to get by, he said.
“They depend on their workers going on food stamps [or] welfare-essentially leeching off the system,” Phillips said. “They can afford to pay their employees more-they simply don’t. They pay as little as they legally can.”
That amount might change-Congress is in the midst of discussion regarding a bill that would raise the national minimum wage to $10.10 per hour-up from the current $7.25.
While Phillips said that it would be a start, the fight on Thursday was about getting the 15, and workers were quick to remind their lucrative employers of where their foundation lies.
“If we don’t get it, shut it down!” strikers shouted as a Dunkin Donuts clerk grinned from behind the counter.
Reverend Scott Marks, Co-founder of the Connecticut Center for New Economy, dismissed arguments claiming that a higher minimum wage would hurt businesses and employees by forcing them to raise prices and lay off workers to make up for increased wages.
“We need to talk about those at the top of the ivory tower,” Marks said into the megaphone. “The CEOs, they can give up that salary so that all of us can eat.”