With that premise, let us assess the Purchasing power of the dollar verses wage increases for fast-food workers from 2002 to 2012.
Establishing the amount of wage increases for McDonald's workers during this same period of time is not as easily done. (Much thanks to the Monticello, MN, Public Library) First, the Bureau of Labor Statistics resists giving up these numbers. To be sure, they point to some complicated tables that would take weeks to find the data within, and then make the calculations to arrive at these numbers for some occupations. But, as near as this writer can tell, they do not specifically track the fast-food industry in terms of labor. The nearest this writer could come was Mean Annual Wages for fast-food cooks from 2002 to 2012. (However, this writer believes that the increase in fast-food cook wages will roughly approximate the wage increases for all fast-food hourly laborers.)
In 2002 the mean annual wage for fast-food cooks was $14,930.00
In 2012 the mean annual wage for fast-food cooks was $18,780.00
This was an increase of 25.79 percent
These numbers represent a decrease in purchasing power for fast-food cooks of 1.81 percent (almost 2%) over 10 years. When individuals are already at or near subsistence level, 2% isn't giving up your annual travel vacation. At these wage levels 2% is giving up, for example, a gallon of milk each week that your children should have.
Clearly, the standard of living for America's fast-food cooks has declined by almost by 2% in the 10 years from 2002 to 2012. Clearly, wages did not increase enough for employees to maintain their standard of living. The question is whether or not this decrease in purchasing power was the result of non-machinated free-market forces or the result of the amoral, unethical, and/or unlawful machinations?