Tucson Progressive

Pamela Powers, a progressive voice for Arizona

As Income Disparity Grows, Tucsonans Protest Low Wages at Walmart & McDonalds

An estimated 80-100 protesters representing several liberal organizations protested low wages for fast food workers at McDonald's in midtown Tucson.

An estimated 80-100 protesters representing several liberal organizations protested low wages for fast food workers at McDonald’s in midtown Tucson.

Protests against the low wages paid by multinational corporate giants have been sweeping the country, since the Occupy Movement raised the consciousness of the 99%. On Black Friday, Nov. 29, at Walmart stores nationwide and again Thursday, Dec. 5 at McDonald’s restaurants nationwide, workers, unionists, progressives, and other liberal activists protested unfairly low wages and barriers to unionization for millions of US workers.

With profits, CEO pay, and wage disparity at all time highs, isn’t it time to raise the minimum wage to a living wage? Or better yet, isn’t it time to end income disparity in our country?

Here in Tucson, protesters chanted and waved signs in front of the Walmart on Valencia and the McDonald’s in midtown. (For more on the Walmart protest, check out the video here.)

Tucson Police forced low wage protesters to stand in the narrow curb lawn at Speedway and Alvernon, in front of McDonald's.

Tucson Police forced low wage protesters to stand in the narrow curb lawn at Speedway and Alvernon, in front of McDonald’s.

At McDonald’s, approximately 80-100 citizens braved chilly temperatures and intermittent rain to protest low wages. In the days before the local protest, right wing radio host Jon Justice shared PDA Tucson’s Facebook announcement about the event and urged his Facebook followers to come to the midtown McDonald’s, show their support for the fast food chain, and eat some good food. (Excuse me, but McDonald’s hasn’t served “good food” in decades– if ever.) This resulted in a flurry of comments on the PDA page and Justice’s page about the “entitlement mentality”, people being “paid what they’re worth”, and the fast food industry being “one key stroke away from 80% automation”– justifying Arizona’s $7.80/hour minimum wage and offering support to McDonald’s franchisees who make millions on the backs of workers.

Justice’s bravado managed to muster 10-12 of his followers to form a counter protest. In the top photo, they can be seen gathered on the McDonald’s patio, while low wage protesters were forced to stand precariously on the 2-foot strip of curb lawn. Described as “heavy handed”, three Tucson Police Department officers were at the protest and made sure the pro-worker protesters didn’t set foot on the public sidewalk or McDonald’s property. As if police presence at the peaceful rally wasn’t enough, a tow truck was ready to haul away protesters’ vehicles but none were towed. (The police and the tow truck were reportedly called by McDonald’s.)

PDA Tucson's Jim Hannley, chair of the Economic and Social Justice Team, with PDA Tucson Chair Phil Lopes, behind him.

PDA Tucson’s Jim Hannley, chair of the Economic and Social Justice Team, with PDA Tucson Chair Phil Lopes, behind him.

Income Disparity at All-Time High

Protests against multinational corporations like Walmart and McDonald’s rage in the streets, as news media report the pros and cons of income disparity and the US government votes on continued austerity policies for workers and continued pork for the military-industrial complex.

With income disparity at an all-time high, just 51 Americans own $1 trillion of the country’s wealth. Compare this to 1982– at the dawn of President Ronald Reagan’s trickle down economics scam– when 1500 Americans owned $1 trillion of the country’s wealth.  Our wealth is 30 times more concentrated today than a generation ago; if this trajectory continues, in another 31 years, just 12 Americans will own $1 trillion, according to Bob Lord, writing for AZ Central.

The majority of more than 30 economists surveyed last week by the Associated Press believe that income disparity is a drag on the US economy.  From the Arizona Daily Star

Higher pay and outsize stock market gains are flowing mainly to affluent Americans. Yet these households spend less of their money than do low- and middle-income consumers who make up most of the population but whose pay is barely rising.

“What you want is a broader spending base,” says Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James, a financial advisory firm. “You want more people spending money.”

… analysts say the economy would be better able to sustain its growth if the riches were more evenly dispersed. For one thing, a plunge in stock prices typically leads wealthier Americans to cut sharply back on their spending.

“The broader the improvement, the more likely it will be sustained,” said Michael Niemira, chief economist at the International Council of Shopping Centers.

A wide gap in pay limits the ability of poorer and middle-income Americans to improve their living standards, the economists say. About 80 percent of stock market wealth is held by the richest 10 percent of Americans. That means the stock market’s outsize gains this year have mostly benefited the already affluent.

CEO vs Worker Pay: A Glaring Example of Inequality

The Christian Science Monitor recently released a story showing the glaring reality of wage disparity between the CEOs and workers of 10 multinational corporations. McDonald’s has the dubious distinction of being the business with the largest wage disparity; McDonald’s CEO makes $9247/hour, while the average McDonald’s worker makes $7.73/hour. Starbucks, a company many defended as enlightened, is #2 in wage disparity with $9637/hour for the CEO and $8.79/hour for the average worker. The much-maligned Walmart is #7 with CEO pay at $6898/hour and average worker pay at $8.86/hour. (Shhh… don’t tell Walmart’s Mike Duke what McDonald’s Donald Thompson makes or that slacker will want a raise.)

The full breakdown of the 10 US corporations with the highest wage disparity is in the table below, along with the CEO’s annual salary, estimated by multiplying the CEO hourly rate by 2087 hours in a full time work year.

It’s time for Congress to stop kowtowing to the 1% and tell the American people (who will be losing food stamps and unemployment with the new budget deal) how they can justify NOT raising taxes on people who make $9247/hour. Ending corporate welfare is long overdue.

A picture of wage disparity.

A picture of wage disparity.

Thanks to Jim Hannley and Connie Saddler-Nelson for the photos of the protest.

2 comments on “As Income Disparity Grows, Tucsonans Protest Low Wages at Walmart & McDonalds

  1. Pingback: #StrikeFastFood: Burger King Workers Walk Off Job in Tucson (video) | Tucson Progressive

  2. Pingback: Fast Food Workers #FightFor15 & Strike Today Nationwide | Tucson Progressive

Comments are closed.

Follow Tucson Progressive on WordPress.com


The Tucson Progressive: Pamela J. Powers

I stand on the side of Love. I believe in kindness to all creatures on Earth and the inherent self-worth of all individuals–not just people who agree with me or look like me.

Widespread economic and social injustice prompted me to become a candidate for the Arizona House, representing Legislative District 9 in the 2016 election.

My platform focused on economic reforms to grow Arizona’s economy, establish a state-based public bank, fix our infrastructure, fully fund public education, grow local small businesses and community banks, and put people back to work at good-paying jobs.

In the Arizona House, I was a strong voice for fiscal responsibility a moratorium on corporate tax breaks until the schools were fully funded, increased cash assistance to the poor, expansion of maternal healthcare benefits, equal rights, choice, unions, education at all levels and protecting our water supply.

After three terms, I retired from the Arizona Legislature in January 2023 but will continue to blog and produce my podcast “A View from the Left Side.”

%d bloggers like this: