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Thursday saw about 100 fast-food workers in the St. Louis region participating in the latest of a series of ongoing protests demanding a wage hike to $15.00 an hour (nationally, fast-food workers average wage is about $8.94 an hour):

…  workers and organizers say they can’t live on the minimum wage, pointing to the disparity between their wages and the salaries of the people who run the corporations for which they work.

“We’re the ones busting our backs. He’s the one getting into his pool,” said protester Andrew Jackson, who has worked at Taco Bell on Hampton Avenue for 15 years and has five daughters, one of whom works at a McDonald’s and was also at Thursday’s rally. “I don’t think it’s fair that I have to work two jobs. I want time to be home with my family, too.”

Based on the letters to the editor that were printed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after an earlier iteration of this protest, it seems that many still think that fast-food workers are minors living at home and working for pocket change. Or they’re low-skilled losers who need to take responsibility for themselves, work two jobs, go back to school, get a better job, etc. If the letter writers concede that nobody can live on the minimum wage, they still think that asking for what one characterized as the entry-level salary for a college graduate is just too presumptuous, never mind that there’s a big difference between a college graduate’s beginning salary, which usually quickly increases, and the near-static pay of a fast-food employee.

But did you notice that the worker quoted in the Post-Dispatch article cited above is an adult man who is attempting to support a family? Most fast-food workers aren’t carefree teenagers:

…  these jobs are no longer introductions to the world of work. The age of the average worker is 28, with 70 percent 20 years old or older, according to statistics compiled by AOL Jobs. One out of four has at least one child. A third has at least some college education. And, according to the National Employment Law Project, there is “limited occupational mobility,” so the positions don’t lead to higher paying positions let alone opportunities to own franchises.

Most of these people are working in the fast-food industry because that’s where the jobs are in today’s post-industrial economy. The days of good-paying manufacturing jobs seem to be long gone. And News Flash! Lots of fast-food workers do work two jobs – in order to survive. Nor is fast-food work easy. At it’s worst it can be a relentless, hot, dreary scramble to keep up the pace while keeping your cool as you deal with an often difficult, demanding clientele.

It isn’t as if the fast-food companies can’t afford to pay their workers a living wage either. Profits are soaring. For example:

… corporate fast-food giants are enjoying robust profits. McDonald’s raked in $5.5 billion in profits in 2012 – a 27 percent increase in profits over five years – while YUM! Brands posted $1.6 billion in profits last year.

So don’t let folks tell you that paying a decent raise will push the cost of fast food into the stratosphere. Just remember that you and I are already being hit up for that low-cost Big Mac that some of us would never purchase outright:

Wages are so low that many workers have to turn to public assistance for basic survival. Which means that taxpayers must subsidize the poverty wages that fast-food corporations pay their employees.

While we’re on the topic of compensation and value rendered, I ‘d like to draw your attention to a different but related matter. Thursday’s print edition of the Post-Dispatch reprinted* an article from the Kansas City Star about a recent analysis from the Institute for Policy Studies that concluded that:

A select group of the nation’s corporate chief executives has been paid far more than their performance warranted, according to a compensation analysis released Wednesday.

[…]

Nearly 40 percent of the men who appeared on lists ranking America’s 25 highest-paid corporate leaders between 1993 and 2012 have led companies bailed out by U.S. taxpayers, been fired for poor performance, or led companies charged with fraud-related activities.

The reason that I bring this up is that I want to know why folks think it’s presumptuous for those who do some of the hardest, dirtiest work in the country to ask for a living wage while white collar incompetents and crooks collect billions.

* I can only find this online reprint from the Wichita Eagle – but it’s the same article I’m looking at in my print paper.