National Consumers League

Group calls on Burger King, others to match European fast food worker wages

October 28, 2014

Contact: Ben Klein, National Consumers League, benk@nclnet.org, (202) 835-3323

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL) is calling on the CEOs of three companies to pay their workers a living wage in the United States, after a story appeared in the New York Times documenting that three chains--Burger King, McDonalds, and Starbucks--pay the equivalent of $20 an hour and provide myriad vacation and sick leave benefits to fast food workers in Denmark. 

We are writing to you and to your competitors in the industry to ask that [you] pay a living wage to your entire workforce, starting in the United States, because clearly you can and will in countries that demand it,” said the letter, signed by Sally Greenberg, the League’s executive director.

The letter continued: “We believe it is both callous and unpatriotic for Burger King to shortchange the wages of your workforce, while paying more than double those wages in other countries where unions are more powerful.” 

NCL is demanding that these fast food outlets act to close this wage gap immediately. The Times story, written by Liz Alderman and Steven Greenhouse, noted that the average wage for fast food workers in the United States is $8.90/hour. According to a recent study from the University of California at Berkeley, half of American fast food workers have to rely on public assistance to make ends meet.

"The obvious conclusion is that Burger King and its fast food competitors also mentioned in the story can and do pay a living wage and decent benefits in other countries, but refuse to do so for your very own American workforce,” said Greenberg. NCL also noted that the National Restaurant Association, an industry trade group, regularly opposes increased wages and benefits fast food and other workers in the restaurant industry.

NCL noted that while hamburgers in Denmark might cost a bit more -- 80 cents or so according to the Times -- “… they sell there as they would here. If doing the right thing requires raising the price of a Whopper by 80 cents, so be it. Consumers will pay that in the United States, as they do in Denmark.”

Finally, the NCL letter asked the company not to offer up the usual excuses. “Please don’t respond by telling us how good Burger King is to its workforce or try to defend this behavior by explaining why things are different in Denmark. Consumers and workers support companies that treat their workforces with respect and pay them a living wage. This revelation about Burger King paying $20 and myriad benefits to your workforce across the Atlantic calls out for a company response.

The NCL letter offered to work with the companies and support serious efforts to close the wage gap.

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Its mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.