Recently, fast food workers in Indiana and Kentucky went on strike again — a message that the issue of fair wages will not disappear after the United States Senate failed to pass a bill for a wage increase. That increase would have raised the current federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour. The U.S. Senate held the vote late last month, with Indiana’s Senators splitting – Senator Donnelly voting in favor and Senator Coats opposing – and both of Kentucky’s Senators voting in opposition. Even though the measure had bipartisan support, it could not get the 60 votes needed to prevent a Republican filibuster. Thus, even though there were more than 50 votes lined up to pass the bill, it failed. Had it succeeded, there is no guarantee that a similar measure would have passed the Republican-led House of Representatives.
Those in favor of the bill, like Senator Donnelly, claimed that it would create more opportunities for families in Indiana and elsewhere. Right now, a parent could work a full-time job and still fall below the poverty line. By contrast, Coats and others who opposed the bill claimed that raising the minimum wage would kill one million jobs and only help 19 percent of those currently in poverty.
Regardless of the oppositions’ reasons, workers across the United States and around the world have decided to share their views of what they want: a minimum wage hike to $15 an hour. One 33-year old father claimed that he could not afford to care for his one-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son on the wages he earned. Likewise, another employee was forced to join the National Guard in order to supplement her minimum-wage income. A third employee was earning slightly more than minimum wage — $9 an hour – but still struggled to support his family and needed to get on food stamps. He had enrolled in college but was forced to drop out because he needed to work.
Fast food worker strikes have been backed by unions, and some have criticized unions for having an “ulterior motive” at a time when the number of union members has dropped and more states are passing anti-union laws. However, there is evidence that without union pressure, companies have no incentive to provide employees with fair wages or benefits. Whereas when unions are strong, even non-union employees benefit.
Until meaningful changes in the law are made, employees’ best recourse may be in litigation, filing a wage and hour lawsuit if it appears that they are being unfairly denied overtime, meal breaks, or vacation. For instance, too often, employees are required to do extra work “off the clock” that should actually be compensated. Over time, that work can add up to thousands of dollars of lost income per year.
Charles W. Miller & Associates is an Indiana and Kentucky plaintiffs law firm serving residents of Kentucky and Indiana. Located in Louisville, Kentucky, the firm provides representation in the areas of personal injury and employment law. If you need a Kentucky or Indiana labor law attorney, contact us today for a free consultation.