What do fast food worker strikes and a DC living wage ordinance have in common with Hunger Action Month? Unfortunately, not enough. A wave of one-day strikes against fast food restaurants is rolling across the country. On August 29, thousands of workers in more than 50 cities protested their low wages, demanding a raise to $15/hour. In Washington, Mayor Vincent Gray has on his desk the Large Retailer Accountability Act that would raise minimum wage for employees of new Walmart stores to $12.50/hour, up from current average of $8.81 nationally. Walmart has threatened to halt construction on three new stores in the nation’s capital if he signs the bill.
Every anti-hunger advocate will tell you that hunger is a symptom of poverty, and poverty is shaped by unemployment, underemployment, and low wages.
Given that, one would expect that anti-hunger groups would be publicly supporting the fast food workers as well as lobbying Mayor Gray to sign the living wage bill. Increasing the wages of workers in the service and retail industries would put a dramatic dent in the food insecurity rates in the U.S.
Unfortunately, almost no anti-hunger group has stepped forward on either issue. The two notable exceptions are Hunger Action Network of NY State, which has called for an increase to the minimum wage for tipped workers to $10/hour, and Bread for the World, whose President has called for an economic bill of rights.