Meritocracy says that anyone working at McDonald’s in this country doesn’t deserve to be earning a penny more than they now are. Why? Because they’re not worthy. Why? Because in this country one’s success is measured by how much better one is living relative to the other.
For people who are against an increase of the minimum wage or the idea of employees at McDonald’s making $15 er hour, it’s hard to convince them that had the federal minimum wage kept pace with inflation, it would now be at $22 per hour. Or, that adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage in 1868 would have the purchasing power at $10 per hour today. For them, someone earning those wages, unlike them, clearly hasn’t done something right in their lives. Yes, and anyone working at McDonald’s should be happy and appreciative that someone has extended the courtesy of a job.
But don’t tell that to 26-year-old Nancy Salgado who works as a cashier at McDonald’s. Salgado, a single other of two, has been at her current McDonald’s for ten months. She lives in Logan Square, a community on Chicago’s northwest side, and earns $8.25 an hour. Salgado works thirty to forty hours per week and is struggling to raise her two kids. Salgado recently confronted the president of McDonald’s, Jeff Stratton, about her wages during his speech at the Union League Club of Chicago. She has worked at McDonald’s since the age of 16, and has never received a raise.
This from The Real News Network:
Still think giving McDonald’s workers 415 per hour is a bad idea?
Well, read the following from Demos to see how “exceptional” we are:
Critics of the fast-food worker strikes don’t just make the mistake of relying on industry-backed research to argue that higher wages are unaffordable (see Jillian Kay Melchior‘sslanted and shallow piece in NRO) and ignore the real-live examples of U.S. states that have raised their minimun wage with no adverse effects (like Washington).
They also seem unaware of an all-important point: Which is that the leading U.S. fast-food chains already pay much higher wages — in some cases more than $15 an hour — to workers in countries with higher labor standards. And guess what? These overseas restaurants are still very profitable and hire plenty of new workers.
Australia is a good example, as Jordan Weissmann, pointed out in the Atlantic recently. The minimum wage Down Under has been far higher than the U.S.’s for years. It’s currently the equivalent of $14.25 an hour, but many McDonald’s workers make more than that. McDonald’s opened its first restaurant in Australia in 1971. It now has more than 900 outlets there. Pretty good growth, I’d say.
France is another example. That country’s minimum wage is $12 an hour, but additional worker benefits push the real number even higher.
So how’s the fast-food chain been doing in France? Has it been stumbling along, with restaurants not willing to hire workers — as armchair theorists like Jillian Kay Melchior would imagine? Are the Golden Arches doomed under social democracy?
I’m sure a great many French traditionalists wish that were so. In fact, though, McDonald’s has over 1,200 restaurants in France and is actually the largest private sector employer in that country. McDonald’s didn’t open its first restaurant in France until 1979, so we’re talking about an average of over 30 new McDonald’s restaurants opening every year for the past three decades.
Beyond a higher minimum wage, McDonald’s workers in France enjoy a number of protections that business tends to fiercely resist here and France’s labor regulations are regularly depicted as “job killing.” (Of course, also, French workers all have health insurance through that country’s universal coverage.)
Yet none of this has stopped McDonald’s from running a thriving business in France. To be sure, higher labor costs are passed along to consumers, but overall, McDonald’s European operations are more profitable than its restaurants in the United States.
None of this means that doubling the minimum wage overnight in the U.S. wouldn’t lead to jobs losses for fast-food restaurants. Certainly there would be disruptions. But let’s stop pretending that big fast-food chains are operating by the slimmest of margins and will start shedding workers if they are forced to substantially raise wages.
Remember this information the next time your eat a burger.