Should Fast Food Workers be Paid More?

Is it feasible? McDonald’s recently raised its CEOs’ salaries despite complaints from front line workers, and as a result of multiple injustices many employees went on strike in the summer. CEO Don Thompson’s financial package jumped from $4.1M to $13.8M last April after McDonald’s fired its other CEO Jim Skinner for not coming out with better advertising when Taco Bell and Wendy’s revamped their menus. His retirement package included not only more money, but use of a company plane and a secretary for two years after his “retirement”.

McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson, image from The Nation

Yes that’s correct: two individual people were given MILLIONS more than the MILLIONS they were already receiving while the company claims it would bankrupt them to give $7 more an hour to the other staff that make running their company possible.

We have a whole thing in North America where CEO salary is competitive. If you want the best for your company, you offer somebody with an MBA and some business sense a ludicrous amount of money that they themselves, and their families even, will never fully spend. I believe that some people should be paid higher for their investment in education, hard work, etc but there is definitely something to be said for those making millions and those making pennies in the same company, especially when the company can more than afford to comfortably compensate its workers.

Front line workers at fast food restaurants are very unappreciated. Stigma in minimum wage jobs results from such low wages. Sometimes it’s a temporary thing: students and people who are laid off work these jobs because other options are bleak.

Image from Vision to America

And that’s the thing. There are sometimes no other options, and in the fast paced world we live in you always need some money coming in. The White House responded to the fast food worker strike by proposing to raise the minimum wage, and McDonald’s responded to the controversy by asserting that higher pay for its employees would signify higher food prices for customers. They also complained that they are already facing tighter restrictions on the quality of food they can serve, which has raised their operating costs.

Poor McDonald’s, they have to serve real beef and so they can’t afford to pay their workers a reasonable amount.

Image from Apples & Nerds

I think that people also forget that many fast food workers receive nowhere near the hours of work needed to make a living. Indeed, all of my own personal experiences working minimum wage jobs only allowed the top employees a maximum of 25-30 hours a week, if that. These companies were always short staffed as a result and made it unnecessarily difficult for those who had to work.

It’s also very manipulative of McDonald’s to release statements concerning the cost to constumers. By asserting that food items will become more expensive if workers are paid higher, the corporation is attempting to get consumers on their side and not sympathize with those behind the counter; it is consequently harder for fast food workers to mobilize and make a change in their working conditions. What most people don’t realize, however, is that our tax money is going to fast food workers anyway.

A recent study Gawker posted showed that many low-wage workers in the fast food sector make use of some sort of public assistance program because the money they make is simply not enough to live on. Even in Canada, many fast food workers qualify for unemployment benefits because the hours and money they make is not considered enough of an income. The corporations should be paying for people to live comfortably, not the government. Especially when these people are in fact employed.

One woman who disrupted a meeting with the McDonald’s president recently was arresting for claiming that she didn’t make enough money to buy shoes with. Of course she was arrested under the guise of “disturbing the peace”, but this just goes to show that corporations like McDonald’s not only don’t care about their employees’ well-being, they want to try to conceal the resentment their employees have so that a real movement isn’t started. Not only is this silencing, it also attempts to cultivate an image of employees as unruly, disruptive and not deserving of higher wages because their problems are unfounded, and moreover that they are ungrateful. In McDonald’s eyes, during these difficult economic times, people should feel lucky to have any sort of job.

Another problem McDonald’s has with the whole higher wages thing is “loss of job creation”, or in other words, the fact that they won’t be able to rely on excuses like high turnover or low skill anymore in justifying their poor treatment of their employees.Companies like it when their employees are essentially replaceable because it allows them to manipulate staff. Come in early or stay late, go above and beyond or your hours will be cut.

I think these companies have it all wrong: if they pay higher, competitive wages, they will be able to be more selective in who they hire, and perhaps get somebody that will care and work hard for their company.

Government intervention is needed to get these companies to take more responsibility for the ways in which profits are distributed. Raising the minimum wage is possibly a good start, but I think the consequence of higher inflation would outweigh the good it would do giving people a couple more dollars an hour.

Instead, I think governments should start looking at their public assistance programs in a different way. Start measuring the amount of people who work minimum wage jobs and still need assistance. Get those companies to start giving out reasonable hours and being accountable for their employees’ wellbeing.

Image from Radio Canada

At the end of the day: if you can afford to give one person millions of dollars, you can afford to step up the amount you give to those low-skill workers who probably have as much shit to deal with as the CEOs. Only difference is that they don’t get to go home to a mansion and private plane.

About The Girl on Bloor

I'm a busy 20-something about town living in downtown Toronto and creating fun, easy recipes for those on the go!
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