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Surprising facts behind fast food strike

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Workers staged a walk-out Thursday which could shake the fast food industry to its core. Hundreds of workers walked off the job in New York City, staging what could be the biggest strike in fast food history. They're asking for a raise.

The strike is a big deal for two reasons: first, these workers aren't unionized. They're loosely connected through an organizing group called New York Communities for Change.

Second, more people work in food prep and service related jobs than almost any other occupation. Only office support and sales have bigger workforces as this U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics chart confirms:


But fast food workers make less money than people in almost all of the other occupations. Most cooks, dishwashers, and food prep workers make less than $8 per hour, as this U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics chart shows:


Minimum wage has fallen far behind the cost of living, according to the National Employment Law Project.

And despite the stereo-type, most fast food workers aren't teenaged kids trying to earn a few extra bucks. The median age of a fast food worker is over 28, and adult women dominate the industry. Two-thirds of fast food workers are women and most are over the age of 32,  according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And while hard-working Americans are trying to support a family on $7.50 an hour, corporate profits are hitting record highs.

Credit: NELP analysis of S&P Capital IQ database

The top three low-wage employers are Wal-Mart, Yum! Brands and McDonald's.  Wal-Mart profits are up 23% and McDonald's profits have skyrocketed 130% during the recession. Yet the National Employment Law Project estimates that 58% of the jobs added during the recovery have been low-wage jobs.

Thursday's strike in New York coincided with the 45-year anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr'.s assassination and it echoes the sanitation workers strike that year in Memphis.

In fact, organizers in New York say they met with two of the 1968 strikers to get some guidance and they're hoping to gain some momentum nationwide.

We'll let you know what happens.