Fast feud: Five reasons why fast-food workers should get $15 an hour
McDonald's recent posting of a hypothetical household budget for its minimum- wage employees has birthed an Occupy-style French fry revolution. Frustrated, vastly underpaid fast-food workers across the country are now asking their employers to raise their earnings from the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour to $15 per hour, and both wishful thinking and emotions are running high enough that employees have staged job walkouts in at least seven cities so far.
Here are five reasons why fast-food workers should be paid more.
5. Because fast-food jobs aren't just for teenagers anymore
Over the past week many media outlets have done an excellent job debunking the oft-repeated -- and much-believed -- myth that fast-food employees are primarily suburban teenagers making a little extra chump-change for mall trips. That may have been the truth at one time, but not anymore. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median fast-food worker is actually about 29, and 40 percent of minimum wage workers are 25 to 54. When the economy got flushed down the toilet not too long ago, swathes of middle-management jobs ended up in the septic tank, and these workers had to go somewhere.
Fast-food workers these days aren't so much interested in pocket money for trifles so much as food for their mouths, clothing for their asses, roofs over their heads and decent lives for their kids.
4. Because the current minimum wage is not enough to live on
It's difficult bordering on impossible for fast-food workers to live on $7.25 an hour, especially at a time when companies are slashing full-time positions (if any were available in the first place) and cutting back hours to circumvent Obamacare, and thus avoid having to pay for workers to receive adequate health bennies. The biggest reason that the McDonald's household budget chart pissed off so many people is because it was predicated on the assumption that a McJob wasn't enough to provide basic necessities, and those employees had second jobs to make up the difference.
Ergo, McDoo was admitting openly that its workers didn't make enough money to live on, under the guise of trying to assist workers in spreading out their peanut-pay.
3. Because in some places, fast-food jobs are as good as it gets
Another obvious non-secret is that many fast-food workers don't really want to be fast-food workers, and if better, higher-paying jobs were available where they lived, they would ditch the fry baskets pretty f*cking fast. Rural areas and poverty-ridden urban centers don't exactly offer a delightful smorgasbord of jobs to choose from, and the contention that fast-food employment is an entry-level job doesn't cut the mustard in places where there is no step up the ladder -- except fast-food supervisor jobs that pay a few measly dimes more.
So why don't these people move? Relocating is not exactly cheap, either.
2. Because happy employees make for happy customers Ever wonder why fast-food restaurants seem unkempt, workers seem bitchy and disaffected, service times suck, and you never seem to get the extra pickles you ordered? Fast-food employees making minimum wage have just enough incentive to care about keeping the lights on and not murdering customers with plastic silverware. Bumping up their wages to even the proposed $9 would be good, hiking them up to the asked-for $15 would be better, and workers making enough money to not only live, but live comfortably would likely result in vast improvements in service and employee attitudes, which give customers more incentive to eat at places where workers are congenial.
And the extra pickles would be forthcoming. Hell, you may even get ketchup packets, napkins and straws through the drive-thru.
1. Because fast-food customers will probably still pay a little more for burgers, fries and tacos.
McDonald's made $5.5 billion last year in profits. Would paying its workers $9 or $15 an hour put it out of business? Doubtful. It doesn't take an advanced degree in business management to figure out that anytime costs go up in one area such as labor, prices go up to make up the shortfall, usually in product pricing. Let's say that McDoo corporate management woke up tomorrow and began binge drinking, and decided to pay workers $15, and raised the prices of every single menu item by $1 -- creating a $2 value menu and selling those tasty little pies for $1.50 each?
It would have an effect on the profit margin, but I predict it will be both temporary and minimal, because the reasons for record fast-food consumption in this country will not change. People buy fast food like McDonald's because it's cheap, convenient, tastes good and saves time. A price hike in menu items to defray the cost of higher employee wages would not permanently affect customer spending vis-à-vis profits.
TL;DR?: McDonald's and other fast-food companies can keep being greedy motherf*ckers AND pay better wages.
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.