Burger King confirmed Tuesday that it struck a deal to buy Tim Hortons Inc. for about $11 billion, a move that could help give the fast-food company a stronger foothold in the coffee and breakfast market. The corporate headquarters of the new company will be in Canada, which may also help Burger King lower its taxes. Such tax inversions have been criticized by President Barack Obama and Congress because they mean a loss of tax revenue for the U.S. government. Burger King and Tim Hortons said the chains will continue to be run independently and that Burger King will still operate out of Miami. The tie-up could help each Burger King and Tim Hortons chains pose a greater challenge to market leaders such as McDonald’s and Starbucks. It also reflects a desire by both companies to expand internationally. Burger King, which has about 14,000 locations, has been striking deals to open more locations in developing markets. The company sees plenty of room for growth internationally, given the more than 35,000 locations McDonald’s has around the world.
More GOP failure at work.
SPRINGFIELD — A bill that was inspired by the shut-down of a Madison County girl’s cupcake-baking operation won unanimous approval Thursday in the Illinois House.
House Bill 5354, which will allow “home kitchen operations” to continue baking and selling homemade goods with some restrictions, now goes to the Senate. It was sponsored in the House by Rep. Charlie Meier, an Okawville Republican who said trying to get the bill passed has taught him that you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.
Meier had to put some substitute ingredients in the bill in order to get it passed in the House. It originally would have prohibited local health departments from regulating the sale of home-baked goods by churches and other charitable organizations, or by hobby bakers such as sixth-grader Chloe Stirling of Troy.
Before calling the bill for a vote, Meier amended it to state that a health department can inspect such an operation “in the event of a complaint or a disease outbreak.” Another amendment states that such operations, based out of home kitchens, are allowed only “in a municipality, township or county where the local governing body has adopted an ordinance authorizing the direct sale of baked goods.”
Meier wouldn’t name names, but he said he was “encouraged” by House leadership to make the changes to the bill in order for it to get passed.
"It’s not where I started, it’s not what I wanted, but we’re better off than we were before. It’s a step in the right direction," Meier said. "We were at the point where we were going to get nothing or get part of it, so we took part of it."
Most every health department in the state had opposed the bill in its original form.
"Current law has a negative impact on home kitchen operators like Chloe, but once this bill becomes law, they should be able to continue selling baked items without having the fear of being shut down by the health department," Meier said.
The Madison County Health Department’s shut-down of Chloe’s cupcake-making enterprise spurred Meier to file the bill. Chloe wasn’t at the Capitol on Thursday, but Meier said she’s happy with the revised bill.
Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons said the amended bill seems to be a good compromise that takes into account public safety and individual freedom. He said he would encourage the Madison County Board to adopt the type of ordinance that is required in the bill.
"I’m totally in favor of that. In fact, I’ll help write the ordinance," Gibbons said. "This looks pretty reasonable, pretty workable."
The bill states that in order to qualify as a “home kitchen operation,” monthly gross sales cannot exceed $1,000, the food cannot be potentially hazardous, and the operator must provide notice to the purchaser that the food was produced in a home kitchen.
Meier says many churches and other charitable organizations have dinners as fundraisers, where individual members of the organization each bring baked items. For example, he said, a church might sell chicken dinners, with each dinner including a slice of home-baked pie or cake. Meier said he’s OK with the church’s kitchen having to meet health regulations, but it’s going too far to impose health regulations on every home kitchen where a pie is baked.
Chloe’s cupcake operation was featured in the BND Magazine in January. Madison County health officials have said they shut Chloe down after receiving a complaint from an adult who was denied permission to sell products baked at home.
The House passed the bill 106-0.
It’s headed to the Senate for easy passage and hopefully Gov. Quinn signs it.
I get it, I get it, I get it, but for many people it’s a matter of accessibility, not just affordability. This fact gets a passing mention, but it’s wrapped up in so much privilege and fat-shaming that I really cannot. Oh, most people who live in food deserts have access to cars, do they? Cars that cost nothing to maintain and run, thereby adding no cost whatsoever to your food budget?
I wish I could be coherent about this right now, but at the moment I’m just annoyed. Stupid poor people, it’s your fault if you’re malnourished and diabetic! Junk food isn’t even cheaper! Watch less television and spend that time driving to the nearest grocery store, you lazy asshole! You’re poor, so you must toil nobly toward the grave for me to give you even the slightest amount of credit! After all, it’s your choice! Concern trolling! TROLOLOL!
AHAHAHAHAHAHA NO. JFC WHO EVEN MADE THIS GRAPHIC INKDOT. WHO EVEN MADE IT. A MEAL
IS TWO DOLLARS.
WHEN YOU ARE EATING AT MCDONALDS ALL THE FUCKING TIME YOU ARE NOT GETTING SOME HUGEASS “VALUE” MEAL BECAUSE THAT SHIT IS EXPENSIVE. YOU ARE ORDERING OFF THE FUCKING DOLLAR MENU AND IF YOU ARE REALLY LUCKY AND HAVE SOME EXTRA MONEY THAT DAY, YOU MIGHT BE ABLE TO ADD FRIES TO YOUR BURGER AND DRINK (or a drink to your burger and fries) OR MAYBE A PIE.
JFC. A family of four eats for eight dollars at McDonalds. Fuck, let’s even assume you are able to get $3 worth of food per person, so you’re spending $12 total. And let’s also assume you are magically not living in a food desert and could in fact go to a grocery store that has things that do not come in cans.
McDonalds takes two minutes. The cheaper beans and rice takes twenty minutes, at least. And, in a shocking turn of events, people do not always have twenty minutes to make food. And hey, guess what! The amount of spare time you have to fuck around doing things like making beans and rice goes down the less money you have. More money = more free time to do basic tasks like food prep. Less money = less free time to do basic tasks like food prep so it makes more sense economically and in terms of personal well-being (because, yes, mental well-being is in fact important) to go a fucking fast food place and get your meal there.
Let’s not even talk about the crossover between people who are disabled and people who are poor, because that makes this “analysis” even more ridiculous. The cost of making food isn’t just a fucking money game. If you figure in the cost of access, and the cost of prep time, and the cost of having the ability to do this in the first place, McfuckingDonalds comes out as cheaper every time.
For fuck’s sake.
Reblogged for the awesome response of awesomeness.
All. Of. THIS.
All of this AND ALSO: These food prices are bullshit, and none of these ingredients make up a full meal for four. Unless somewhere a regular family of four is dining on a delicious meal of uncooked chicken seasoned with only salt and pepper, plain lettuce with a little olive oil and a squeeze of lemon on it, raw whole potatoes, and a slice of bread each. Or a half cup of uncooked beans with a half raw bell pepper and a raw slice of bacon. Because the McDonald’s meal pictured above (which I sense is also priced incorrectly - most of that stuff is on the dollar menu) is ALREADY COOKED. Part of what you pay for is the cooking part.
I once tutored a little girl who lived in LA with her mom. They shared half of an apartment with another family. Their half didn’t have the kitchen; they just had a microwave and a hot plate. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that a poor family doesn’t have an oven, a stovetop, a fridge big enough to hold all this stuff (can you fit a whole chicken and half-gallon of milk into a minifridge?), and pots, pans and knives. And space to prep food. And dishes and a big sink or dishwasher. And time to cook all of this food and clean up afterward, as one of the above posters pointed out.
This isn’t the first time I’ve reblogged these photos. People are aggressively ignorant about the reality of poverty in America. There are empirical sociological reasons a poor family of four might prefer to eat dinner at McDonald’s over making a meal at home, such as lack of access to fresh foods (food deserts) and a lack of space and time. Poor people aren’t fucking stupid. Stop insulting them by insinuating they can’t make a budget or cook a meal.
Reblogging for awesome responses
Today in Dana Loesch stupidity: she callously mocks fast food protesters who are fighting for a fairer minimum wage and the right to unionize without intimidation from overzealous bosses. This isn’t surprising, given her long history of attacks on workers’ rights and unions.
Some restaurant workers are striking today for a liveable wage and teabaggers are responding at the Twitter hashtag #EatFast where they are posting mocking photos of themselves gorging on fast food.
1. IT WOULD CREATE JOBS.Low wages are holding back economic growth, but a raise for our country’s lowest paid workers would put money in the pockets of those most likely to spend it, generating much-needed consumer demand and contributing to economic growth across industries. That translates to higher GDP and new hiring in the labor market.
2. IT WOULD REDUCE POVERTY.
More than ten million Americans—and the family members they support—live beneath the poverty line even though they have jobs. With a median wage of $8.85, a fast food cook in a family of three lives in poverty even if she never takes a day off. Raising wages in the fast food industry could improve living standards for millions of hard working people.
3. COMPANIES CAN AFFORD IT.
With annual profits in the billions, the largest fast food companies could raise wages for their entire workforce and shareholders would still see a return. In fact, many of these employers already do pay higher wages to workers in other countries without wrecking their bottom lines.
5. COMPANIES THAT INVEST IN THEIR WORKERS THRIVE.
Low-wage jobs are a business choice, but some employers take the high road offering fair wages, hours, and benefits. This investment in the workforce pays off in lower turnover and higher worker productivity, generating good service to customers and a solid bottom line.
8. IT WOULD PUSH UP WAGES FOR OTHER UNDERPAID WORKERS.
Increasing the standard for decent pay in fast food could be a boon to low-wage workers across industries. The ripple effects start with increased consumer demand and economic growth, and create pressure in the labor market to raise wages in other low-pay positions. Contrary to popular myth, the vast majority of those affected by a raise at the bottom are working adults, struggling to make ends meet for themselves and their families. Even in fast food, most workers are 21 or older and have at least a high school degree. Raising wages in fast food could impact living standards for millions of American workers and the families that depend on them.
Dana’s baseless smears of fast-food workers who are striking:
Visiting fast food businesses today to support free enterprise.
— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) December 5, 2013
Rent-a-mob protesters get paid to get angry http://t.co/AS9kgtfgFs
— New York Post (@nypost) December 5, 2013
This biased article from the New York Post's Twitter account was retweeted by Loesch.
The unintended consequences of a mandatory minimum wage increase http://t.co/bSr2bhmUkj
— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) December 5, 2013
We have a fast food truck today for #FastFoodThursday #iloveyouhardees #dlrs http://t.co/TE4YCbNVBA
— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) December 5, 2013
Itisntpaleoandidontcarebecause #fastfoodthursday #dlrs #971talk http://t.co/kMvfz3km9l
— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) December 5, 2013
What makes these strikers so much better than my single mom who worked her way up from 3 mim wage jobs?
— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) December 5, 2013
I worked mim wage jobs through school. What makes these strikers better than me that they should get more $ than some MO cops?
— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) December 5, 2013
I was a statistic, a kid raised by a single mom who worked 3 jobs to not go on gov’t dole. Don’t tell me there isn’t opportunity.
— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) December 5, 2013
Who decided that there is shame with a job? A job is a job. There is shame in NOT working, not shame IN working.
— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) December 5, 2013
Who is pushing the theory that you cannot leave the station into which you were born? Is this a feudal society?
— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) December 5, 2013
I have way more more respect for a fast food worker putting in 8 hours a day than a community organizer on the gov’t dole. #fastfoodstrikers
— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) December 5, 2013
Her regular fill-in host for The Dana Show and guest Tony Katz falsely accuses unions of “bullying fast food workers.”
Fast food workers are planning a strike to force employers to pay them $15 per hour. This Thursday, in over 100 cities across the nation, Big Labor is coordinating with “grassroots” activists to pressure these employers to pay a “living wage.” From all the press, you’d think the push toward higher wages was something noble. But, this is Big Labor. And no one will bully, threaten or intimidate to steal your hard earned money more than Big Labor. The group Fast Food Forward, one of the organizations in sync with Big Labor to shame fast food restaurants into extinction, states their purpose:
In America, people who work hard should be able to afford basic necessities like groceries, rent, childcare and transportation.
While fast food corporations reap the benefits of record profits, workers are barely getting by — many are forced to be on public assistance despite having a job.
Raising pay for fast food workers will benefit workers and strengthen the overall economy.
It’s not the workers that Big Labor wants to benefit. It’s Big Labor that Big Labor wants to benefit.
There is no way to determine a living wage anywhere in America. It’s a lie, and so is the idea that groups like Fast Food Forward and Big Labor care about fast food employees. Listen up, fast food workers, because you’re being used! Not by McDonald’s or Wendy’s or Chick-Fil-A, but by Big Labor and the political candidates (ideology) they support. BIg Labor wants you to unionize because Big Labor wants you to pay union dues.
They want your money, and they don’t give a good holy damn about you!
More lies from Loesch acolyte Katz.
When you imagine a person on government assistance, what comes to mind? This short video shows that needing a little extra help with groceries may be more common than you think.
A food fight’s happening in lunchrooms across the country. Cafeteria workers are following federal nutrition guidelines that call for more fruits and vegetables. Some kids complain the nutritious meals aren’t delicious. Schools spend $13 billion a year on food they hope will get kids excited about healthy eating. But when pizza sauce is considered a vegetable, who’s really setting the menu? How can we guarantee the meals being dished out make the grade?
Photo: Tim Boyle/Getty Images
Today’s edition of the 700 Club began with a story about the beneficial effects of a low-carb, high-fat diet. But host Pat Robertson explained that he didn’t believe the positive coverage, arguing that such a diet is not only bad for your health but also “violates the principles that God set down.”
But that wasn’t the only food-related issue that required Robertson’s wisdom today.
The televangelist later in the program advised against eating halal food, warning that proceeds from such foods go to funding terrorist groups like Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Conservatives call for boycott of Ritz Crackers because Al Sharpton said ‘cracker’ once, about 20 years ago | The Raw Story
Conservative activists are calling for a boycott of Ritz Crackers because the brand advertises during the Rev. Al Sharpton’s MSNBC talk show. The boycott is led by Ben Shapiro, an editor for the conservative Breitbart News and author of the recent…
Nine months after fast food workers in New York City walked off the job on “Black Friday,” their efforts to change the industry’s pay standards have gone national. Workers are striking in roughly 50 cities on Thursday in hopes of converting the trickle of strikes throughout the summer in cities like Seattle, St. Louis, and Milwaukee into a flood.
In addition to the nine cities that have already seen strikes this summer, places like Boston, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, and Hartford are joining the fight on Thursday. Organizers welcomed reports that one restaurant manager in Hartford plans to fire anyone who participates in the strike, saying that such illegal retaliation will only bring immediate high-profile pressure from workers and their supporters, further raising the profile of the effort to end poverty wages in food service.
Kyle King, a Burger King cashier in Boston, told the Boston Globe that he and the thousands of other workers expected to strike Thursday have to risk being fired if they want to change anything. “I don’t know what I’ll lose first,” King said, “lose my job or lose my sanity.” Thursday also brings the fast food strikes to major cities in the south for the first time. Unions are less powerful in the south, and legal protections for workers tend to be weaker in southern states.
Low-wage workers in the retail and fast food industries have been walking off the job since last year to demand a minimum wage of $15 and the right to organize into unions. The fast food industry’s profits have soared, but those gains haven’t trickled down to workers. Fast food jobs, like the other low-wage service sector jobs that have been the primary source of post-recession job growth, do not currently allow workers to support themselves financially. McDonald’s recommends that its employees find a second job and go without heat or air conditioning in order to survive on the chain’s typical wages.
As the strikes have spread, the drumbeat to raise the minimum wage has grown louder. One congressional proposal would raise the federal minimum wage to $10 an hour, which would barely catch up to the buying power the minimum wage had in 1968.
Fast food operations in other countries and a handful of chains in the U.S. that are committed to paying livable wages have shown that companies can still make healthy profits while paying substantially higher wages.
The Other NRA: How the Insidiously Powerful Restaurant Lobby Makes Sure Fast-Food Workers Get Poverty Wages and Have to Work While Sick | Alternet
Editors note: This is the first in a series of reader-supported—i.e. crowdfunded —articles about the powerful National Restaurant Association and the plight of low-wage workers who are being screwed at every turn by industry lobbying tactics and misleading propaganda. An amazing 387 AlterNet readers contributed more than $5,500 to support this ongoing investigative project. Many of the donors are listed at the end of the article.While thousands of fast-food workers were preparing to walk off their jobs earlier this summer to seek raises to $15 an hour, the industry’s corporate lobbyist, the National Restaurant Association, was celebrating a string of political victories blocking state minimum wage increases and preempting local sick day laws.
In June, the NRA boasted that its lobbyists had stopped minimum wage increases in 27 out of 29 states in 2013. In Connecticut, which increased its state minimum wage, a raise in the base pay for tipped workers such as waitresses and bartenders vanished in the final bill. A similar scenario unfolded in New York State: It increased its minimum wage, but the NRA’s last-minute lobbying derailed raising the pre-tip wage at restaurants and bars. The deals came despite polls showing 80 percent support for raising the minimum wage.
The NRA’s lobbying didn’t stop there. It also told members that it blocked a dozen states this year from passing laws that would require earned paid sick leave, which is what New York City and Portland, Oregon adopted. Meanwhile, it boasted that six states, including Florida, passed NRA-backed laws that preemptively ban localities from granting earned and paid employee sick time.
“These are horrible things, but there are amazing things that are happening to change it,” said Saru Jayaraman, co-director and co-founder of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC), which has been working a dozen years to slowly change the industry’s exploitive business model and labor practices. “And there will be increasingly important stuff coming up.”
As fast-food workers across the country prepare for a second nationwide walkout over wages on Thursday, most Americans have little idea how profitable and politically aggressive the corporate mainstays of America’s second biggest employer have become. While labor activists have had victories in 2013, such as New York and Portland passing sick leave laws, and New Jersey poised to raise its minimum wage via a ballot measure this fall, the restaurant industry’s lobbying powerhouse is at war with the industry’s workers.
“It’s an old-boy network. It’s very old-school thinking. It’s very, very conservative,” said Paul Saginaw, founder of Zingerman’s food companies in Michigan, which employes 600 people and unlike the NRA, supports better benefits for employees like healthcare. “There has to be some pressure put out to provide better lives for people.”
Most Americans are unaware that millions of people who work in the industry—especially the 2.5 million fast-food preparers and servers who earn an average of $8.74 an hour, according to federal labor statistics—are not just teens in their first job, but adults with families to support. They may not know there’s a separate minimum wage for tipped workers, $2.13 an hour, that hasn’t changed in 22 years—although 32 states have raised it slightly. They may not realize that they, as the restaurant-going public, subsidize owners via cash tips, even as the NRA routinely tells legislators its industry cannot afford to pay better wages or basic benefits.
Most Americans don’t know that restaurant salaries are so low that the industry’s 12.2 million workers use food stamps at twice the rate of the U.S. workforce, and are three times as likely to be below the poverty line. Or that women earn less than men in similar jobs. Or that restaurants are among the biggest low-wage employers of people of color. Or that virtually every chain—except for In and Out, according to ROC—don’t want to pay living wages and benefits or offer real opportunities for advancement.
Most tellingly, almost every national chain—from fast-food outfits such as Yum! Brands Inc. (Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC) and McDonald’s to full-service dining such as Darden Restaurants Inc. (Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Capital Grille)—have reported higher revenues, profits, margins and cash holdings to Wall Street analysts despite the recession, according to the National Employment Law Project. Giants like McDonalds had 7.8 percent revenue growth over the past decade, according to Gurufocus.com, a financial reporting site. Yum had 10-year revenues of 8.7 percent, and Darden’s 10-year revenues grew 9.1 percent.
But last winter, as the NRA was fighting minimum wage increases and paid sick leave, it was telling lawmakers that the industry could not afford to pay employees more. Yet this August, the NRA’s newsletter was predicting another profitable year, where revenues would be up 4 percent compared to 2012. “Restaurant and foodservice sales are expected to reach a record high of $660.5 billion this year,” another 2013 revenue forecast on its website said.
“The NRA is the worst employer lobby in the U.S.,” Jayaraman said, speaking about its lobbying and PR operation that pretends it is not an industry dominated by Fortune 500 companies, but instead a rickety mom-and-pop operation teetering on the brink of ruin. “The [earnings] data does not bear any resemblance to what they say is true.”
There are many reasons why America’s restaurant industry, which employs nearly one in 10 Americans, gets away with underpaying its workers and blocking laws that would benefit employees. These reasons include the industry’s longtime low-wage business mode; its longstanding fear-based lobbying that any wage or benefit increase would kill jobs; and a sophisticated political operation that nurtures ties to both parties, encouraging lawmakers to adopt anti-worker laws.
“The question is where is it coming from and who benefits,” said Ben Goldfarb, executive director of Wellstone Action, a group that trains progressive activists. “We know who benefits. It’s the Restaurant Association members and the electeds [legislators] who do their bidding… It’s not about what’s good or bad for the economy.”
Exploitive Roots, Exploitive Lobbying
The business model—where almost everyone except for top management earns an average of slightly more than $11 per hour—is premised on paying workers the lowest legal salary and has not changed in decades. As theNew Yorker’s James Surowiecki recently explained, many of today’s largest service-sector companies, particularly restaurants and big-box retailers, were founded decades ago and sought to hire young people and housewives as low-wage, part-time employees, to give them work experience and spending money. “The reason this has become a big political issue is not that the jobs have changed; it’s that the people doing the jobs have.”
This summer’s fast food walk-outs—which will continue this fall—are part of a campaign to challenge and change that status quo, particularly as the media is discovering that the largely non-unionized restaurant workforce is filled with people with families. One consequence of the Great Recession is that millions of middle-class jobs have been replaced by lower-paying service jobs—food sector jobs that are now filled by adults with children, and jobs that offer little opportunity for advancemment.
“On what I’m earning right now you have to choose between paying your rent and eating the next day,” Christopher Drumgold, a 32-year-old father of two from Detroit who earns $7.40 an hour after a year at McDonald’s, told reporters during July’s fast-food worker walk-out. “Fifteen dollars an hour would be great. We’d be able to pay our living costs.”
This kind of working-class struggle prompted President Obama to call for raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9 in his 2013 State of the Union speech. Some Democrats in Congress quickly responded by going higher, proposing it be raised to $10.10, and that the minimum cash wage for tipped workers be 70 percent of the federal (or higher state) minimum wage.
While polls consistently find that 80 percent of Americans, including majorities of Republicans and people earrning more than $100,000 a year, support a $10.10 wage, the industry’s national and state-level lobbyists went to work to kill any increase at the state or federal levels. And if that didn’t work, they sought exemptions for tipped workers in states where the increase was seen as passing.
What unfolded in New York, which raised its minimum wage but not for tipped restaurant workers, and in Maryland, where the NRA stopped a minimum wage increase in a legislative committee, shows just how the NRA wields its power and influence.
“The NRA is a very conservative organization… my values are so different,” said Saginaw, who has been in the restaurant business for 31 years and was a former member. “They certainly weren’t representing my interests. They talk the small business owner game a lot but their lobbying efforts are dictated by the large corporate chains. I’m a small businessman.”
New York State: A Cautionary Tale
Many Americans are not aware that there is more than one minimum wage. There’s the federal wage for non-tipped workers, which is $7.25 an hour or $15,080 a year and took effect in July 2009. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have raised that rate. A few states, such as New Mexico and California, allow jurisdictions to set locally higher minimums.
Then there’s the tipped wage, for jobs where the public tips workers. The federal tip wage, which is $2.13 an hour, was last raised in 1991. Thirty-two states have raised it slightly. Employers are supposed to pay the difference between that base and other state or federal minimum. But, as ROC United said, that doesn’t always happen. And then there are other minimum wages for immigrants, minors and people with disablities.
In New York, the minimum wage increase in 2013 fell prey to partisan games. “It could be seen as good intentions gone awry,” said Frank Sobrino, press secretary for New York State Democratic Sen. Jose Peralta, explaining what happened as his state legislature raised the state’s minimum wage this year from $7.25 an hour to $9 an hour by 2016.
New York’s Senate is controlled by an odd majority of Republicans and so-called independent Democrats—not his boss, Sobrino said. When the GOP agreed to raise the wage in secret last-minute negotiations—after blocking it for years—the final bill did not include a tip wage increase for waiters and bartenders, which is what the industry wanted. Tipped workers at car washes and airports will get a raise, said Working Families spokesman Joe Dinkin. “But hotel and restaurant waiters and bartenders, which are the largest group of tipped workers, do not get an automatic increase. Rather, the tipped minimum wage will go to the Wage Board, which is controlled by Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo, to do what he wants with it. And yes, this is because of the National Restaurant Association.”
The bill also contained an unprecedented and alarming payoff to fast-food chains and big retailers: a tax credit offsetting the cost of hiring teenagers, but only for minimum wage. That subsidy drew the media’s attention. A Wall Street Journal editorial, “Minimum Intelligence,” said it provided an incentive to fire workers 20 years and older and replace them with teens. “For a teen working full time, the annual subsidy could be worth as much as $2,800 per worker by 2016,” the Buffalo News editorial said.
Sen. Peralta, the Queens Democrat, has since proposed a bill to nullify the tax break that analysts say will be worth millions to big employers.
There were two features of this deal that exempifly how the NRA operates, ROC’s Jayaraman said. First, NRA lobbyists keep telling lawmakers that their industry primarily employees teenagers and young people who don’t need higher wages and benefits. Their PR shop has even absurdly claimed that raising minimum wages would kill entry-level jobs. That line apparently was bought by New York State’s Republican senator who inserted the tax subsidy at the last minute.
But the brouhaha over the tax subsidy also helped the NRA keep its last-minute deal on excluding the minimum wage for food servers somewhat hidden. “They are worried about public outrage,” Jayaraman said, noting that the same kind of secret last-minute deal excluding tip wages emerged in Connecticut when it raised its minimum wage. “That happened at the last minute with legislators and lobbyists for the NRA,” she said. “Everyone who had been working on this was blindsided. Typically, they don’t bring it [excluding tip wages] up at hearings.”
Maryland: Sowing Fear Not Hope
But in Maryland, the NRA’s lobbyists were more brazen. They did bring it up excluding tipped workers and they trashed them—but only after waiting six hours to testify, long after most labor activists had testified and the hearing room was almost empty.
First came Carville Collins, representing a regional Wendy’s chain with 108 stores and 3,100 employees. He rolled out the NRA’s standard “job killer” speech, which was also presented by NRA lobbyists in Congress this spring. Carville said that raising wages “imposes costs we cannot pass onto consumers.” He said a proposed three-step increase to $10 an hour would cause “five to eight” stores to close, putting as many as 300 people out of work. Moreover, if Maryland’s minimum wage was higher than nearby states, it would attract out-of-staters who would “come and displace Maryland workers.” Carville then cited research from the NRA-funded Employment Policy Institute, projecting that a national $9.80 minimum wage would kill “256,000 to 768,000 jobs,” including thousands of jobs in Maryland.
Melvin Thompson, senior vice president of the NRA’s state affiliate, the Restaurant Association of Maryland, immediately followed, and opposed raising minimum wages “for all the reasons you have heard already.” But then he attacked, claiming that servers often stole tips—saying they didn’t need an increase. He said restaurant workers made two to three times the minimum wage and some waiters earned more money than owners. He concluded, “the tip portion doesn’t need to be included in this bill.”
Needless to say, progressive restaurant owners, activists and economists have thoroughly debunked each of these claims. As Zingerman’s Saginaw said, “The workforce has changed. It’s not just students and people out of college. It’s much more diverse than that.” Economists have pointed out that at McDonald’s, for example, half of the cost of raising its minimum hourly pay to $10.50 could come by adding a nickel to the price of a $4 Big Mac. Other studies by ROC have found that a dime increase in daily food prices could support a 33 percent raise for minimum wage workers and a doubling of the base tip wage.
But, as the Wellstone Institute’s Ben Goldfarb explained, NRA lobbyists seek to sow just enough doubt and gray areas that it becomes easy for legislators to vote against proposed wage-increase bills, or just exempt their industry entirely.
These fear-based scripts—which have been studied and rebutted by the National Employment Law Project (NELP)—prompted legislators, including a handful of Democrats, to vote against the Maryland bill in committee. The local advocates,Raise Maryland, are not giving up. They have analyzed how much Maryland gave away in business subsidies this year and written memos rebutting the NRA’s testimony. Raise Maryland volunteers have been knocking on thousands of doors this summer to generate support and get people to write to lawmakers to change their minds and reconsider the issue, campaign coordinator Matt Hanson said.
Suppressing Wages Isn’t Enough
The NRA did not respond to a list of questions from AlterNet beyond an initial phone call where a spokeswoman emphasized that the industry’s profit margins are so slim—3 or 4 percent—it can’t afford to do more. Yet the industry is America’s largest low-wage sector and is filled with corporations that have been consistently profitable despite the sluggish economy, according to NELP’s analyses of Wall Street earnings reports. Yet the NRA not only opposes raising wages and linking wages to inflation, it has another draconian priority: opposing local laws granting earned sick leave.
Despite protests by workers who have publically explained what it’s like to have to go to work sick, the NRA has been lobbying in statehouses to preempt cities and counties from passing local laws that would require employers to grant earned paid sick leave. ROC notes that 90 percent of restaurant workers don’t have paid sick days, and “two-thirds report cooking, preparing and serving food while sick.” That reality, captured in videos by sick workers, helped a coalition led by Working Families in New York City and Connecticut to adopt local sick leave laws. These were significant victories. The New York City law will affect a million workers. (San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Oregon, and the District of Columbia also require earned sick time.)
New York’s passage of sick leave legislation grabbed headlines, especially as it became law when the city council overrode Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto. But in the past two years, NRA lobbyists have pushed eight states to preempt or repeal local labor laws that include requiring paid sick leave. The industry—helped by prominent Democrats such as Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter—also beat proposed sick leave laws in Denver and Philadelphia.
This trend started in Wisconsin and shows how right-wing alliances spread anti-labor legislation. In 2011, Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker backed an industry-led effort to ban paid sick leave laws, like the one Milwaukee’s votersadopted as a ballot measure in 2008 while Walker was county executive—its top elected official. Seventy percent of voters had backed paid sick leave. That spring, the passage of Wisconsin’s bill preempting local laws was touted as a model by the NRA at meetings of the American Legislative Exchange Council, the pro-corporate lobbying mill. ALEC members, almost all Republicans, introduced copycat bills in their states, Wellstone Action’s Goldfarb said, saying this was how the NRA’s priority spread and “scaled.” These were passed by GOP-majority statehouses, sometimes using strongarm tactics that dismayed labor organizers.
This summer, for example, Republicans in Florida’s Orange County—near Walt Disney World—were lobbied by fast-food giants, including Darden, which owns Red Lobster, Olive Garden and Capital Grille, and Disney, and intentionallydelayed acting on another sick leave ballot measure that had 80 percent support in polls. That tactic gave the restaurant lobby time to push its preemption bill through its legislature, which GOP Gov. Rick Scott signed into law in July. Arizona, Mississippi, Louisiana, Kansas, Indiana and Tennessee have all passed bans on local sick leave laws. Michigan, Alabama, Oklahoma and South Carolina are considering it.
The Arizona Restaurant Association lobbyist said last March that no one was proposing a sick leave law in her state, but “we’re fortunate to get out in front if it.” In Memphis, Tennessee, the prospect that Shelby County was considering a wage theft ordinance—because restaurants there hadn’t paid $270,000 in back wages to workers that a coalition of lawyers and churches recovered in court—prompted its GOP-majority state legislature to act and preempt local labor laws. “That [wage-theft law]… would have been very harmful to local businesses,” the Tennessee Hospitality Association told its members.
Public Health vs. Private Profits
In all these political fights, the question of who is being harmed is the critical question. The NRA is touting an old anti-regulatory script—trotted out by state chambers of commerce for years—that any cost that cuts into profits is a job killer and must be stopped. But advocates like ROC and Working Families say that argument is upside down. Low pay and no benefits not only hurts worker productivity, it also hurts families and undercuts local consumer spending.
“It’s an old-school chamber of commerce attitude—it’s anti regulation,” Zingerman’s Saginaw said. “We believe that by paying higher wages and benefits we will get better productivity from our staff and have more satisfied customers.”
And when it comes to sick leave, there is another dimension: the public is at risk when food is prepared by workers who can’t afford to take a day or few hours off to visit a doctor. ROC’s 2012 report on Darden described a North Carolina Olive Garden worker who came to work in 2011 with Hepatitis A, prompting the county to vaccinate thousands of people and a class-action lawsuit.
“Almost no laws anywhere in the country require restaurants to provide paid sick leave for employees who come down with anything from the sniffles to a norovirus,” noted Grubstreet.com. “On the other hand, pretty much every single municipal health department in the country has a rule or law requiring employers to keep sick employees away from food and out of the restaurants, and that’s where things get problematic.”
Problematic is not exactly the correct word. When it comes to the NRA and its state affiliates, greedy and shamelessly political are more accurate. And that is why thousands of fast-food workers across the country plan to walk out of their jobs on Thursday, in what organizers says will be months of continuing labor actions—including a focus in September on raising tip wages.
“The NRA is a lobbying machine—it is for the owners of restaurants and restaurant chains that are turning a profit off the backs of workers,” said Shannon Liss-Riordan, a labor lawyer and owner of the Just Crust, a pizza restaurant in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “It doesn’t have to be that way.”
High Road Employers
Meanwhile, advocates like ROC have formed a progressive restaurant trade association, RAISE, and are encouraging people to sign petitions to raise minimum wages and benefits, as well as use its new National Diners’ Guideidentifying which restaurants treat employees fairly. They’re also encouraging people dining out to ask owners about paying fair wages, just as the public asked about organic and local foodstuffs and gradually changed menu offerings.
“We try to encourage that kind of economic inquiry,” said Liss-Riordan, a RAISE member. “A few years ago, it was pretty revolutionary to ask, ‘How fresh is your arugula?’ Now we want people to ask, ‘Are you paying fair wages?’ It’s just getting started. We are hoping that it’s a powerful idea that will take off.”
Fox News continues to be a reliable mouthpiece for screwing Americans for the hell of it. No, it doesn’t really even count as news anymore, but I’m still stumped as to just who the Fox News audience is. Who is this network catering to at this point, pissed-off ferrets with a craving for human flesh?On Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy asked why the AARP would want to enroll eligible seniors in the [SNAP] program and “encourage a welfare state.” Fox Business host Stuart Varney responded by dismissing the need to feed seniors — even those in extreme poverty — and claiming that the effort in Pennsylvania was about buying votes. He expanded:VARNEY: Now the AARP, huge supporters of President Obama politically and financially. Big supporters of Obamacare. And now they’re out there signing people up for food stamps. This is part of the buy the vote campaign. They’re really shifting America, changing what America really is.
Oh no, an advocacy group for seniors is helping poor seniors eat food. Those bastards. But I have to ask—who, in the (remarkably, stunningly old) Fox News audience is this meant to piss off? I can see getting your audience riled that the probably-not-Christian black fellow probably did something-something-something therefore Benghazi. I can see how the particularly dim corners of the Fox News audience, the dirt-stupid folks for whom waving a little imported flag around constitutes the beginning and end of their entire civic duty towards their country and fellow citizens, will clutch the “IRS scandal” to their chests and never let go, not if you debunked it ten times or a hundred. “The AARP” was already a damn unlikely addition to the ACORN-Benghazi-Obamaphone conspiracy roundup, though, and that their perceived crime is wanting poverty-stricken people to get access to a monthly food budget considerably smaller than the price of the wine at Stuart Varney’s last restaurant outing—no, that one’s a bit odd.
(Hypothesis: “business networks” are nothing but the prosperity gospel with the God stuff taken out of it. It’s all faith based, it’s all based on motivational-sounding hucksterism masquerading as a genuine expertise in something else, and it’s all presented by people who make the majority of their money telling you why you should send them yours.)
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h/t: Hunter at Daily Kos
BREAKING: Paula Deen’s contract NOT renewed by Food Network as of the end of June 2013
BREAKING NEWS: ‘Food Network will not renew Paula Deen’s contract when it expires at the end of this month.’ - Food Network says
First New York, then central Pennsylvania, and then Chicago. Now St. Louis is the latest American city to be hit with a strike by non-union fast food workers demanding higher wages and the right to form a union. Over the course of Wednesday and Thursday, over 100 employees at approximately 30 different St. Louis-based restaurants walked off the job, demanding the right to form a union and a raise from Missouri’s $7.35 hourly minimum wage to $15 per hour. The strike was organized by an alternative workers’ group called the St. Louis Organizing Committee as part of a campaign called STL Can’t Survive on $7.35.
“Increasingly, fast food jobs are the only options for St. Louisans, but these workers can’t even afford to pay for rent, food, or carfare,” said Rev. Martin Rafanan, director of STL Can’t Survive on $7.35, in a statement. “If the workers earned more, fast food workers would spend that money at local businesses here in St. Louis and help lift our economy.”
The strike—which hit restaurants such as McDonald’s, Jimmy John’s, Wendy’s and Domino’s—was only a quarter a size of New York’s second fast food strike, still the largest walkout to occur in the industry. Still, the recent events in St. Louis indicate that labor unrest within the industry is not going away, and that the nationwide momentum shows no sign of abating.
A significant chunk of the jobs being gained during America’s economic recovery are concentrated in the service and retail sectors; in fact, the fast food industry is growing at twice the rate as the rest of the economy, according to The Nation’s Annie Shields. As a result, St. Louis is highly unlikely to be the last American city to be hit with a fast food strike.