I was glad to read Newsday’s coverage of the wage board hearing in “400 turn out for LI hearing on fast-food wage increase (June 18, 2015).” Along with 400 others, I was fortunate enough to attend this event. While at the hearing, I was greatly moved by the testimony of fast food workers trying to survive on the minimum wage of $8.75 an hour. One worker broke out into tears while saying that because of extreme financial restraints, she has never been able to give her 5-year-old child a birthday party.
The majority of those at the hearing were in support of raising the wage to $15 an hour, but there were a few who stood out in opposition. Thomas Spero, an owner of four Wendy’s restaurants, was among them as covered in Newsday’s article (June 18, 2015). Spero started his testimony by sharing his own story of starting out as a minimum wage fast food worker decades ago, earning $6 an hour, to becoming a successful owner of four Wendy’s restaurants. While his story seemed to exemplify the typical American dream of working hard and moving up, he failed to recognize that his earnings of $6 an hour had much higher purchasing power than the $8.75 minimum wage of 2015. When adjusted for inflation, fast food workers in 2015 are making less now than decades ago when Spero was a food worker. Fast food workers are not asking for anything special, they are simply asking for the fair wage that they deserve. I hope the Wage Board takes into account the opinion of the vast majority of the 400 people in attendance and increases the minimum wage for fast food workers to $15 an hour.