Thomas Roberts   |  July 29, 2013

Fast food workers go on strike

Fast food workers fed up with low wages are walking off the job on Monday and are striking across the country. The National Employment Law Project’s Tsedeye Gebreselassie joins MSNBC to discuss the worker’s struggle for a livable wage.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> walking off the job. minutes from now another round will strike the city as the lunch rush begins. it was the first wave of strikes set to hit an unprecedented seven cities across the country today with workers from mcdonald's, burger king , wendy's and kfc participating. with me today, from the national employment law projects. when we look at this, protesters are calling here for a higher wage. i think numbers here we are looking at is $15 which is about double what it currently is, $7.25. why does doubling make sense here?

>> i think the workers striking are responding to this explosion in low-wage jobs that's happening in our economy right now these are the jobs like fast food , like retail, that are disproportionately fueling job growth . a fast food worker makes on average less than $9 an hour. these are not entry level teen jobs. median age for a fast food worker is 29 years old and contrary to what the industry says, these are not jobs where --

>> 29 years old is much different when i managed a fast food restaurant aeons ago. the average age was probably 19.

>> the the low-wage work force in general has been shifting to be older and better educated than ever before. 80% of workers that make $10 an hour across our economy are over the age of 20. these strikes are responding to this change in our labor market and the need to raise pay for millions of workers in our economy.

>> depending how many kids they could be at the poverty line even at these wages. i've got more information. according to the "new york times" and an economic policy institute study, of the 28 million workers in this country, 1 in 5 earn less than $9.89 an hour. steve greenhouse in the "new york times" saying this, "their anger has been stoked by what they see as a glaring disconnect. their wages have flatlined while median pay for chief executives at the nation's top corporations jumped 16% year arching $15.1 million. this isn't the first time we have seen protests, demonstrations. what makes it different today? is.

>> i think today we are in a situation where wages across occupations are actually declining in real value , in real wages and for low wage workers in particular they are seeing significant declines in their wages but at the same time worker productivity is actually going up. and at the same time, the corporations that they are working for are enjoying record profits in some cases higher than before the recession and ceo pay is going up and so workers are fed up and they have about backs against the wall, they are struggling to make ends meet.

>> in recessions we see higher productivity but some are saying maybe there is too much productivity? some will say you raise wages, then you hire fewer people.

>> this is the opponents' argument in good economic times and bad economic times . the truth of the matter is if you talk to economists across the political spectrum , they agree lack of consumer demand is one of the principle reasons job growth has been so sluggish and one reason consumer demand has been so slack is because workers' wages are falling especially for low wage workers. they are falling in real terms . if we want to make sure workers have money to spend and help contribute to our economic recovery then we have got to raise the wage for it. it is too low.

>> fast food workers now demonstrating across the country. these are