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

Mcdonalds-street-48-sm72by Pamela Powers Hannley

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?

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.)

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.)

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.


To see more pictures from the rally, check out this version of the story on or go to PDA Tucson's Facebook page.

7 responses to “As Income Disparity Grows, Tucsonans Protest Low Wages at Walmart & McDonalds

  1. If you look at the income disparity table above, they should have been protesting in front of CVS also.

  2. I like your attitude, moving!

  3. I do not understand why any working class people would counter protest a wage action. The history suggests that when the lowest paid worker’s wages rise, many other segments of the class rise as well. This might not be true for highly skilled workers (e.g. Air traffic controllers or precision machinists) so some of the counter protesters might also benefit from a raise in the minimum. Would you protest a raise of your own wages? Collective action calls for workers to stand for each other; to advocate for other workers. It is in their class interest to do so. That is why we were unconcerned and even not surprised there were no McDonald workers with us. Are you worried about paying nickle or pennies more for a Big Mack?

  4. movingazforward

    I’m not surprised that police were called because some people were holding signs and standing on the sidewalk; the Plutocrats are desperate and scared. Their 30 year reign of unfettered greed at the expense of hard-working Americans is coming to an end. Americans strongly support a workforce that is paid a living wage and has access to affordable healthcare.

    Thanks for the report, Pam.

  5. If protesters rode a shuttle bus from local parking lots, what is your point?

    Since you know so much about this McDonald’s franchise, what is the wage? If you look online, to buy a McDonald’s franchise, you have to pony up $750,000 cash (not a loan). Poor people don’t own McDonald’s restaurants. On the PDA Tucson Facebook page, one McDonald’s defender said that the person who owns that location owns more McDonald’s restaurants than anyone else in Arizona. If that’s true, this guy is a millionaire and doesn’t need your sympathy.

    Given that the national average for McDonald’s workers is $7.73/hour, given that the Arizona minimum wage is $7.80/hour, and given that Tucson is a low wage town, I bet no one (other than MAYBE the manager) is making more than $10/hour.

  6. If the protest had been held on the weekend, more low-wage protesters would have been there also. So, what’s your point?

    There were no paid protesters, and no one was bused in. I heard that there was going to be a shuttle bus from the local church parking lot to the McDonald’s because protest organizers expected the tow trucks. Other than that, the protesters were locals from PDA, WILF, UU church, Casa Maria, Jobs with Justice– people who believe that everyone who stands on their feet all day and works deserves a living wage that will feed and house their families. What’s wrong with that?

    If protesters had entered the restaurant and started asking patrons questions, TPD would have made some arrests. Get real.

  7. December 5th was a weekday, otherwise, many more HARD WORKING people would have joined Jon Justice in his counter protest. Bussing in paid protesters doesn’t count as a true protest. Also, did you look inside at the 50+ patrons and ask them how many of them were there for the counter protest? No? Just as I thought.