Workers set to strike fast food restaurants for higher wages

posted at 4:51 pm on August 29, 2013 by Bruce McQuain

This will be the 2nd attempt by fast food workers to increase their pay:

Organizers say thousands of fast-food workers are set to stage walkouts in dozens of cities around the country Thursday, part of a push to get chains such as McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Wendy’s to pay workers higher wages.

It’s expected be the largest nationwide strike by fast-food workers, according to organizers. The biggest effort so far was over the summer when about 2,200 of the nation’s millions of fast-food workers staged a one-day strike in seven cities.

Thursday’s planned walkouts follow a series of strikes that began last November in New York City, then spread to cities including Chicago, Detroit and Seattle. Workers say they want $15 an hour, which would be about $31,000 a year for full-time employees. That’s more than double the federal minimum wage, which many fast food workers make, of $7.25 an hour, or $15,000 a year.

Why not $20 an hour? Or $100?  Real compensation is and always has been tied to the value of the work that is done.  Except when government or unions get involved.  If you ever wonder where our manufacturing jobs went, you might want to query those two entities.  In essence they’ve priced many an industry out of business with wage demands that exceed the value of the work.

The drive for higher wages isn’t something new.  But the realization that some work is only worth a certain amount of money to employers seems to be eternally so.  There is always a portion of the population that never seems to understand that.  And right now, because of the economy, it’s a buyer’s market in terms of labor.  So to say this is an ill-timed endeavor is to utter an understatement.

Additionally, a nation-wide movement among fast food workers isn’t likely to have the effect they think it might have.  Most fast food restaurants are franchises:

McDonald’s Corp. and Burger King Worldwide Inc. say that they don’t make decisions about pay for the independent franchisees that operate the majority of their U.S. restaurants.

And for those restaurants they do own?

For the restaurants it does own, McDonald’s said in a statement that pay starts at minimum wage but the range goes higher, depending on the employee’s position and experience level. It said that raising entry-level wages would mean higher overall costs, which could result in higher prices on menus.

“That would potentially have a negative impact on employment and business growth in our restaurants, as well as value for our customers,” the company said in a statement.

It’s fast food, folks.  It’s a business model that has as one of its principal pillars the provision of less expensive food delivered quickly.  Note the words … “less expensive food”.  Any idea what effect doubled wages would have on cost?

And what do you see when you walk into most of them?  Young people:

The National Restaurant Association says the low wages reflect the fact that most fast-food workers tend to be younger and have little work experience. Scott DeFife, a spokesman for the group, says that doubling wages would hurt job creation, noting that fast-food chains are already facing higher costs for ingredients, as well as new regulations that will require them to pay more in health care costs.

Where is that increase in cost likely to lead?  In some cases to automation.  Replacement of workers by machines.  And that means fewer jobs.

Fast food joints are entities that provide entry level jobs.  They’re experience builders. As McDonalds says, you start at a certain wage and as you perform, your wages increase. Most fast food workers use their jobs as stepping stones to higher paying, higher skilled jobs.   With this movement we have a group saying “no, we want higher wages now, whether or not we’re worth it,  or have earned it, or it wrecks your business”.  And it surely would.

Of course there are the those who support movements like this but again, their support is mostly based in emotion and not reality.  It’s the old Wal-Mart argument in a sense.  People will argue that Wal-Mart is bad because it drives mom and pop businesses out of business.  But when asked if they’re willing to pay the higher prices those local business must charge for the same goods in order to turn a profit and stay in business, the answer is inevitably “no”.

While many will claim to back the drive for fast food workers to double their wages, they’ll likely to be the first to complain when they’re faced with paying for a $9 Quarter Pounder.

~McQ


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