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Last summer, fry cooks, drive-thru cashiers, and burger flippers in 60 cities took to picket lines to protest low wages that have barely grown in 40 years. In fact, adjusting for inflation, average hourly pay for fast-food workers has fallen 29 cents in the last decade alone.
The protests have since multiplied in size and scope: Fast food workers walked off the job in 100 cities this past December, calling for a minimum wage of $15 an hour. In March, lawsuits were filed in three states alleging an epidemic of wage theft at McDonald's franchises, kicking off demonstrations from New York to Kansas City to Detroit. Last month, a coalition supporting the protests sponsored the first-ever national poll of fast food workers—which found that 89 percent of them reported having wages stolen—and a new analysis was released showing that top fast-food executives now make about 1200 times more than their franchise staffers.
After hearing about last summer's demonstrations, California photographer Gregg Segal wanted to illustrate the stagnant wages being paid to many of America's 21 million fast food industry employees. He attended a Service Employees International Union organizing meeting in Hollywood where he met five workers, all employees of McDonalds or Burger King, some in the ritziest parts of LA. He asked them to don old-school uniforms of their respective employers from the '60s and '70s that he'd dug up on eBay.
"I wanted a quick read that says, 'This is a fast food worker today,'" Segal says. "And the wages are as vintage as the uniforms."
For a sobering look at what fast food workers are up against, try our wage calculator below these photos and see how your family would fare on a typical fast-food paycheck.