The Fast Food Strike: The Hard Facts Behind the Big Mac Attack

May 15, 2014 | | PBS Newshour |

At $9.85 an hour, 25-year-old Terran Lyons supports herself and two kids as a crew trainer at a McDonald’s in Seattle’s university district. That’s a jump from the $9.19 an hour the high school dropout got when she started, and a step above the state’s $9.32 minimum wage. But it’s hardly enough to be self-sufficient. Lyons is on food stamps. She wouldn’t even be able to afford a Big Mac if it weren’t for the 50 percent employee discount.

Fast food CEOs in 2013, meanwhile, were compensated an average of $23.8 million. Based on 2012 figures, CEO compensation in the industry exceeds what workers earn by 1,200 times, according to a report from the Demos Institute.

Forget that disparity. To simply be able to live independent of any public or private assistance, Lyons would need to earn $27 an hour, according to the University of Washington’s Diana Pearce, who created the Self-Sufficiency Standard.