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Missoula fast food workers join nationwide strike

Published On: Aug 29 2013 04:42:03 PM MDT

It may have taken a little longer to get a fast food burger at chains around the country as thousands of workers joined a strike for higher wages.

Fast food employees in Missoula joined the push and made it clear, like others they’re asking for $15 an hour and the right to organize.

“These companies have more than enough money to pay us a fair and decent wage for the time we put in for them,” said Missoula Burger King employee Bryan Carey. “We work just as hard as the people who get paid double than us…it's a hard job.”

But pushing up Montana's minimum wage from $7.80 to $15 isn't simple.

“The idea of moving wages up to a different number and keeping everything else the same is not a very realistic outcome,” said Patrick Barkey the Director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana.

Think of this of this way, for an employer an employee costs more than just an hourly wage. Factor in social security, Medicare, workers' compensation and that $15 an hour costs the employer more.

Barkey said it goes back to the law of demand. “If the price of something goes up people demand less of it, so in the case of labor if minimum wage raises the price of labor, then employers would demand less of it.”

Barkey used Williston, North Dakota and Bakken oil fields as an example. Barkey said high paying jobs in the oil industry forced other employers to push their wages up to get people to work.

“As an example, the fast food restaurant in Williston doesn't except walk-in customers it's only drive through,” said Barkey.

Barkey said it’s because employers couldn't afford to pay enough employees the run the full restaurant; going back to the idea that it could come down to fewer workers, higher prices, and less demand.

“If those higher wages were reflected in the price of fast food, then customers would do the same thing,” Barkey said. “If it costs more to eat fast food then some people would eat there less or not at all.”

But Carney said fast food workers want to be paid for the work they do. “You're always busy. There's little respect, and there's little pay.”

Federal minimum wage is $7.45; Montana sits above that at $7.80. Minimum wage in state is increased yearly based on a cost of living measurement.