Fast food workers earn a median wage of $8.90 per hour.
That's slightly more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, but it's way less than most people can live on.
In fact, it takes a wage of $10.20 per hour to afford basic expenses like rent, food and utilities in America's cheapest place to live, according to an analysis from Wider Opportunities for Women. Nationally it takes $14.17 per hour to survive.
For their part, fast food representatives say the eateries, which are largely run by franchisees, operate on thin profit margins, making it difficult for them to raise worker pay. In addition, they note that entry-level jobs are meant to be just that, and that workers have many opportunities for advancement.
"The restaurant industry has been one of the few industries that continued to create jobs during the recession and economic recovery, offering opportunities to hundreds of thousands of new workers over the past couple of years," Scott DeFife, the National Restaurant Association's vice president for government affairs, wrote in an emailed statement.
That's true. The fast food industry has created jobs at a faster clip than the rest of the economy for the past 14 years. But it's also because not many high-paying jobs are available: Half of all jobs created in the last three years were low paying.
But fast food workers aren't just young people looking to earn some extra cash. Nearly 40 percent are 25 or older, more than one-quarter are raising a child and 31 percent have at least some college education.
So as a result, fast food's low wages end up costing taxpayers billions every year.
Infographic by Alissa Scheller for the Huffington Post
McDonald's former CEO James Skinner made 351 times the pay of an average restaurant worker in 2011, according to an analysis from Bloomberg. The CEO of YUM Brands, the company that owns KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, made 819 times the average restaurant worker in 2011.
So there you have it. Hopefully now you have a better idea of why fast food workers in about 100 American cities plan to walk off the job on Thursday. Protesters are calling for $15 an hour and the right to organize without fear of retaliation.