Can We Finally Treat Fast Food Workers Fairly?

Can We Finally Treat Fast Food Workers Fairly?

New York Times columnist Mark Bittman asks: "Can We Finally Treat Food Workers Fairly?" Bittman notes the trends of municipalities raising local minimum wages, while corporations fail to do so (sidestepping this issue by making other public relations moves). Bittman argues that "if you run a business that’s dependent on labor at the poverty level or worse, and that business doesn’t work if you pay workers something approaching a living wage, it isn’t a viable business, from either the moral or practical point of view." In fact, according to a recent UC Berkeley study, American taxpayers spend $153 billion every year subsidizing these low-wage employers.

However, Bittman takes the argument even further, comparing paying workers less than a living wage the 21st century version of the plantation system of the Old South, enabled by slavery. Bittman reminds his readers that "the fallout from slavery and its aftereffects are still felt today, the core of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s powerfully persuasive arguments for reparations.

"When you look at who does the work in the food system, it is clear we have institutionalized racism, we exploit immigrants to do the work citizens won’t stoop to do, and we are as a society abiding the consequences of employers who underpay workers. These consequences will be felt for decades or even centuries in the form of an economy that features the further accumulation of wealth in a small fraction of society and a lack of socioeconomic mobility for almost everyone else."

Do you agree with Bittman's analysis?