The plight of fast-food workers

Kansas City Star: Hundreds of low-paid fast-food workers and their supporters boisterously demanded improved wages last week with rallies and marches in numerous cities.

Cheers to them. Let’s hope their employers, state legislators and congressional representatives take notice.

America’s expanding low-wage economy is shameful and foolish. It is wishful thinking to expect a robust economic rebound when one in seven Americans lives in poverty and about 15 million Americans work at or near the minimum wage, which is $7.25 an hour at the federal level.

Wages at that level shrink buying power and require more government spending. Republicans in Congress who gripe about too many Americans receiving food stamps and other forms of aid should look at increasing people’s earning power.

The median income for households of working age fell more than 10 percent from 2000 to 2010. One in four private-sector workers makes less than $10 an hour.

The protests last week spotlighted fast-food workers who do the heavy lifting for an industry notorious for low pay. Front-line workers earn a median wage of $8.94 an hour, according to a new report by the National Employment Law Project.

Low-wage workers generally don’t have much of a voice. It is heartening to see them speak out. The trick now is to get the right people to listen and to act.

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