Fast-food workers in Boise will join their brethren in about 100 U.S. cities this Thursday, Dec. 5, in a bid to gain leverage for their push for higher wages.
"Raise Pay to Lift Our Economy!" and "Poverty Wages Hurt Our Community!" are a couple of the picket signs that will circle outside of the McDonald's on Boise's Broadway Avenue this Thursday at noon. The strike is being coordinated locally by United Vision for Idaho and organized nationally by a coalition of labor groups, including Fast Food Forward, Fight for 15, USAction and United Students Against Sweatshops, and is backed by the Service Employees International Union.
In the current issue of Boise Weekly, we examine the campaign to secure a 2014 ballot initiative to ask Idahoans if they're prepared to raise the current minimum wage of $7.25 to $9.80, through incremental increases, by the end of 2017. The campaign needs to collect at least 53,751 valid signatures by Tuesday, April 15, to make it to the November 2014 ballot.
"And it's really important to note that a number of businesses have also signed our petitions," Anne Nesse, founder and organizer of the "Raise Idaho" initiative, told BW. "They understand that if they don't have customers with greater purchasing power, they can't run a business. Even Henry Ford understood that if you build a car but had no customers, it really wouldn't matter whether you built the car in the first place."
But the National Restaurant Association has said that increasing pay to $15 an hour (which the SEIU says should be a minimum standard for most American cities) would cause restaurants to hire fewer workers.
Backers of the movement for higher pay point to studies that indicate the average age of fast-food workers is 29 and that more than one-fourth are parents raising children.
And in a starting study unveiled in October by researchers at the University of California at Berkley, it turns out that the fast-food industry is linked to $7 billion annual bill to taxpayers because the job pay so little that 52 percent of fast-food workers are forced to enroll their families in public assistance programs.