The past few decades have seen a dramatic decrease in the number of jobs in once thriving industries. One particular sector that has not suffered this fate is the service industry. As jobs in other fields are disappearing with alarming frequency, service jobs have been growing steadily for quite some time. The problem, however, is that many of these jobs do not provide the worker with anything close to a living wage. In addition to the uncertainty and inconsistency in this field of work, the individual employees and their families suffer for this simple fact – the pay is too low.
The plight of the fast-food worker highlights many of the dispiriting aspects of the modern economy: income inequality – in this case the discrepancy between the pay of the lowest and top level employees in the industry – is rampant; corporations are using every legal and illegal trick in the book to exploit the worker; and at the end of the day those who work the hardest are suffering the most. The result is a depressingly familiar tale as workers struggle and owners prosper.
Finally, however, there seems to be some signs of hope. Despite the fast-food corporations “best” efforts (“best” in this case meaning illegal, as in, the corporations have been illegally retaliating against workers trying to unionize) employees have started working together and organizing protests. California recently passed new minimum wage laws. And, perhaps most significantly, some businesses have shown that it is indeed possible to treat workers fairly and turn a profit. Moo Cluck Moo, a Michigan burger joint, has been providing living wages to all employees for the past two years. The chain has remained profitable and is even expanding.
Paying living wages to fast-food workers has been the practice of many European fast-food eateries for quite some time (this includes some of the same chains that deny American worker’s these wages). It is refreshing to see the ideas and principals behind such employer-employee relations gaining traction in the States. While employment may be improving, the quality of life that American workers deserve is still out of reach for far too many.