General Question

LostInParadise's avatar

Should fast food workers get a pay raise?

Asked by LostInParadise (29299points) April 24th, 2013
55 responses
“Great Question” (5points)

There is a planned one day walkout in Chicago of fast food and retail workers. There have been previous walkouts in New York and there was a nationwide one for Walmart. The impacts of these were pretty minimal.

Do the workers have a legitimate grievance? It is hard to raise a family on minimum wage with no health insurance. In some cases, workers hours are kept below 40 for the week, so that they can be paid less than minimum wage. The industry as a whole is doing very well. Maybe some day everyone is going to be working at a McJob.

There has not been a movement to boycott fast food restaurants. Would this be appropriate? Ordinarily there might be the danger that boycotting would just result in people being laid off, but during a walkout this would be less of a dilemma.

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LornaLove's avatar

All workers should be given pay rises. This is a basic human right. Since all workers live in the current economy and have responsibilities.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

All fast food workers I have come in contact with as a nurse and a counselor are struggling very hard to make ends meet. I was shocked to discover most of them qualify and are on some kind of relief, be it food stamps, WIC, utilities support programs, our free county health care program, state child support, subsidized housing, etc., etc. One was living in his car. Upon further investigation, I found out through the local homeless advocacy group that 35% of our local homeless work full time.

Obviously, by qualifying for any of these programs, these people are not being paid a living wage. Most of these jobs are provided by corporations. Our tax money is being spent to subsidize these corporation’s workforces, but all one hears is how these employess are lazy slackers out to drain the common weal. So, for their efforts these employees, because they are on some kind of public support, not only receive inadequate wages, but also shame and humiliation to boot. And we get a hamburger that is much more expensive than most of us realize.

Yes, definitely support these employee’s pay increases proportionate to their local cost of living. Full time work should be compensated with a living wage and we should not be supporting the work forces of for profit, often publicly held corporations with our tax money.

amujinx's avatar

Yes and no. Yes, minimum wage is nowhere near enough to live on, so it must be raised. No, because raising minimum wage employees pay will cause inflation and they will still end up struggling to make ends meet. The real solution is to stop letting supply side economics to continue to occur, so the businesses can’t just keep pocketing the money that is supposed to “trickle down” to the lowest workers. Until we make it a better investment for large companies to have workers with living wages and benefits than disposable part-time employees, nothing will change though.

dabbler's avatar

Whether or not they ‘deserve’ a raise (which I believe they do) they certainly have the right to collective bargaining to work out the best deal for themselves. They are up against huge penny-pinching corporations and this is the only way they will get any more than whatever the corporations feel is the minimum that they get away with.

Pachy's avatar

Yes… and fast! Minimum wage is a joke, and not having medical insurance in our society is a tragedy.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Who pays?

When fast food workers get a pay raise, where does the money come from? There isn’t some piggy bank in the sky.

It’s nice to talk about living wages and american society. But in the end, someone foots the bill.

jerv's avatar

@elbanditoroso So, the real solution is to keep wages low and either pass the cost on to the middle class in the form of taxes (who already subsidize the rich), or treat our people like dirt and become a Third World nation?

I think @amujinx has it right, but that would require getting most of the current crop of Republicans out; something too many people are too ignorant to allow tp happen.

Kropotkin's avatar

@amujinx A modest rise in the incomes of already one of the worst-paid sectors is not going to have much if any inflationary pressure. The current recession is marked by a deflationary pressure from the deleveraging of private debt. Raising wages currently would be a form of direct stimulus and likely help the economy. The rest I agree with you.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@jerv – I wasn’t taking a side or advocating one position or another. I was making the point that someone pays. What I am not hearing in any of the arguments above is what the source of the money is for these raises. Only the target of the raises.

If customers of fast food joints want to pay more for their food (to pay better salaries to the workers) then have at it. No problem for me. I don’t eat fast food. If customers don’t want to pay more (i.e. customers decide that the McChicken isn’t worth $1.50 when the guy next door sells a chicken sandwich for $1.20) for higher wages, then let the customers vote with their feet.

My primary objection to the concept of increasing minimum wages is that it puts the onus on “society” (whatever that is) to solve what is essentially a commercial problem. Supply and demand. If there were fewer people willing to work at fast food joints, then the salaries would go up. It is that simple. Too many people are willing to work at minimum wage. There is no pressure on employers to do anything better because people are far too easy to replace.

What needs to happen is that the average person who works at a fast food joint should find something else to do – a better job – and put the squeeze on the fast food restaurant owners.

Jaxk's avatar

Always the simple answer. It a bit more complex. First of all these people are not working for Bill gates or Jeffery Immelt. Most of the fast food restraunts are franchised. That means that the small business owner pays those slaries not McDonalds Corporate. Second it is not Bill Gates or Jeffery Immelt that frequent those restraunts. It’s the low wage earners that will end up paying the higher prices.

The economy is stuck in low gear, very little growth. We keep hearing that Obama has created jobs for many months but they are low end jobs. Good jobs, not so much. Now what you all want to do is strangle the low end jobs as well. Raising the minimum wage will not spur the economy, it will grind it to a halt.

Just a side note about the walk out. If my morning guy doesn show up to open the store on time, I will have to go down and open it myself. If I have to open it myself, I don’t need the morning guy. He will be fired.

JLeslie's avatar

Yes. Let’s get them off the public dole. I would rather pay someone well for their hard work than pay higher taxes so they can get food stamps. It gives the worker a sense of pride in their work and encourages people to work.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@JLeslie Bing, bing, bing, bing, bing, bing, bing, bing, bing, bing, bing, bing, bing, bing, bing, bing, bing! (Me pounding on your GA button)

jerv's avatar

@elbanditoroso I’m sure you’ve seen the comparisons between Walmart and Costco; one makes money for the owners and passes their operating costs on to taxpayers while the other pays their workers well while also turning a healthier profit per store despite higher payroll costs.

@Jaxk Correct; there is no simple answer. But when minimum wage is too low to live on, all taxpayers pay… including businesses. That means customers have less to spend, creating another issue for businesses; higher taxes plus lower revenue is no way for a business to stay afloat. It’s tricky to balance everything to be fair, so about 30 years ago we stopped trying, and look where that got us.

tomathon's avatar

I’m assuming, in your question, ‘should’ implies government rasing minimum wage laws against Corporate will. In this case, no, they should not. In your details, though, you talk about negotiations. The is fine as long as they don’t have immunity from being fired in the event that negotiations don’t work themselves out. However, a walk-out is a threat, not a negotiation. When they applied for the job, they agreed upon the terms, thus creating a contract. By threatening to walk-out of the contract, they should be instantly fired for this. Negotiating is sitting down by the table after work, not punishing a Corporations earnings to get your message across. Besides, these people are easily replaceable, so firing them is not a problem. Anyone can do these jobs. These days a lot of these jobs can be done by robots.

There are several problems with ‘should’. It too is a threat and an unavoidable one unless you fire the politicians, so the best thing you can do is circumvent. If the wages were raised, more people would want to apply for the job but fewer people would be hired. The employer can fire some staff and have the remaining staff pick up the workload. I have seen plenty of such examples. Employees that were making 100k a year were required to finish their own work and then head over to the shipping department and work there too because the bosses fired a lot of the staff in the shipping department. If the manager only has a certain amount of money in his budget, then an increase in wages would force him to hire less people.

Minimum wage jobs are not for people that want to support a family. It is for teenagers, college students, part-time workers and workers that are learning the business. A lot of pre-law students volunteer as paralegals to gain experience. They would be willing to even work for less than minimum wage for this reason. There is no special requirements for these types of jobs and the position can be filled by anyone, so by raising the minimum wage, the low-skilled employees and those gaining experience, would be hit the hardest since there would be less jobs available.

Efficiency will be another problem since there will be less staff available for production. Instead of having 15 guys make your food, you will have 7, thus increasing wait times. Customer service will decrease or be non-exist for the same reason.

The alternative is to raise prices, but people go to Walmart for its low prices and they go to Mcdonalds for its $1 menu. You keep raising those prices and the markets realizes the product is not worth the price.

Cost-of-living doesn’t get factored in either. New York has an extremely high COL, while Oklahoma has a low COL which means an increase in wages in OK would be extremely high for its people.

Then there is outsourcing and being beaten out by global competition.

Only 10% of businesses are successful. A lot of them get completely wiped out during recessions. All these artifical increases just puts more pressure on the business owner, forcing him to cut staff or raise prices, leading him to bankruptcy.

Jaxk's avatar


Seems like everything was pretty good 30 years ago. All through the 80s and 90s up until about 2006 when the Democrats took over congress. I’m sure there’s no connection.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Jaxk The U. S. has had economic woes off and on through out our history. It has very little to do with which political party is in power.

@LostInParadise I think the country took a wrong turn when they came up with part-time work to avoid paying employee benefits. As far as minimum wage, we would all be better off with higher taxes.

rooeytoo's avatar

I am with @Jaxk if the wage keeps raising and puts the shop out of business, then no one has a job at any salary. There has to be a way to separate the big boys from the little ma and pa place. The other thing to consider is the age of the employee. If someone gives a high school student an after school job for a couple of hours doing menial work, that job will be lost if the cost goes too high.

A job should pay according to the type of task performed. If someone does not want to work for minimum wage, then they should be encouraged to acquire a skill or education that will get them a better rate of pay. Paying a high wage for brainless work does nothing to encourage people to better themselves.

deni's avatar

I mean….I just don’t see where it ends. If fast food workers get a raise, why shouldn’t everyone else? There are a billion other people barely making ends meet that don’t necessarily work in fast food. But if you give everyone a raise, essentially you’ve given nobody a raise. Inflation. So….it seems like that is what we keep on doing. No, they shouldn’t get a raise. Fast food work is very simple, not all that difficult, doesn’t take much skill. This sounds harsh. But if you want to make enough money to live on, you can’t work at a fast food restaurant.

LostInParadise's avatar

I question how much of a wage increase would translate into higher prices. Fast food restaurants are highly profitable. There are only 3 major burger chains, an oligopoly. It would not surprise me if they engaged in tacit collusion. I have seen gas stations on opposite corners. When was the last time that you saw two burger joints on opposite corners?

CWOTUS's avatar

It would be very fine if we could wave the magic law wand and hay presto! no one has to struggle with an “unlivable” minimum wage (however high it would become when the law might be passed) and everyone could live happily forever after.

Unfortunately, real life is not a fairy tale (which is the same reason that “anti-gun” laws don’t actually stop gun crime, as people in Chicago might learn some day). As @Jaxk and others have pointed out, the people paying these minimum wages are not always multi-millionaires themselves, and neither are their customers. But let’s suppose that they are. Let’s suppose, in a thought experiment, that the restaurant owners can “afford” the pay increase (it will come out of their pockets, but let’s assume they’re deep pockets).

In that case, it still will certainly not come out of their pockets. They’ll raise prices however much they need to in order to make as close to their current income as they can. After all, they are also in business to make money, and not to provide alms to workers! So their food prices will rise. I don’t know exactly how elastic demand is in the face of rising prices in the fast food industry, but judging by the price competition between various chain restaurants, I would assume that a rise in prices will generally lead to a falloff in demand, as is normal throughout most other industries in the world.

So what will happen? More restaurant workers will lose their jobs. In addition to that, that is, the loss of jobs that are already held, fewer new workers will be hired as demand eventually creeps back up again.

No prudent management hires workers who earn less for the company than they cost. That’s Business 101. If a worker is going to be paid $x per hour, he has to earn the employer $x + $y. In fact, we could say that he has to earn the employer at least $x + $y + $t, with $t being the added payroll tax and other mandated costs that the employee never even sees, and that most are blissfully unaware of. So now, in addition to the immediate drop in employment that a new minimum wage would cost, a lot of workers would find it increasingly difficult – as many have already found it all but impossible – to get their first job. Restaurant owners will avoid hiring too-expensive minimum wage earners as much as they possibly can because they will simply not pay off.

No one should be “living on” minimum wage for long stretches. If they are, that’s certainly not the fault of employers! When most of us got our first jobs, usually at some minimum wage for our time, the first things that we did were: learn how to be a better employee and learn to increase our own value to employers. That is, get up every day, sober and on time, get however minimally presentable we needed to be, get to work and put in the hours and follow whatever stupid rules we had to in order to get by. With many young people not even getting their first job until their 20s or more, they simply don’t learn the rules of Employment 101: get up, get to work and put in a day’s work.

Once you learn that, it’s easy to learn the technologies of the place you’re hired at, find out what work suits you and what doesn’t – improve and add to your education and employability – and get gradually better jobs as you get older, more valuable and more experienced. I repeat: if people are attempting to “live on minimum wage”, then it’s their own fault that they haven’t improved their value to employers to be worth more without someone waving the magic law wand.

Yes, it’s a bad time to be looking for work now. I completely agree – and I would argue strongly that the reason for that is primarily other failed political issues and laws that attempt to do good (including a lot of so-called safety net issues that allow people to continue to fail to improve themselves) – but let’s not screw the workers trying to make it onto the bottom rung and who do still follow the normal progression of gradual and lifelong improvement, just because of some sob stories.

The economy really would work if we would only let it.

woodcutter's avatar

Who here would be willing to pay 8–10 bucks for a shitty hamburger? Not this guy. On a positive note, more people will be more willing to put together a meal that might be nutritious as in, not fast food.

rooeytoo's avatar

@cwotus fantastic answer. So many responders to this type of question always seem to assume that all employers are greedy bastards who are living on easy street at the expense of their ever faithful and hard working employees. But I am here to tell you all (again) it ain’t necessarily so! And so true that minimum wage jobs should be for learning and growing. Apprentices used to pay the master for the lessons, minimum wage is just the opposite, so be grateful for the opportunity!

talljasperman's avatar

No, but I believe that all professions should have a option to receive tips and/or bonuses as well as sick/vacation/holiday pay. So that anyone who wants to pay more is free too. I worked in fast food and I could never afford to live on $5 an hour alone, but to balance it I lived with my parents and I survived… now that I am 35 I can survive on $1588 a month comfortably… seeing I am learning to save money so that all my money goes to food, shelter and utilities that I learned from watching my mom cook and shop. Something I would have not gotten had I earned enough to live without giving myself a good home economics education from my family.

Luke86's avatar

We can only wish, but the truth is this. When you think of talents/skills needed to work at a fast food restaurant, you can’t think of much. You don’t need a degree or high school diploma to work at most. So yes, the work is hard, but you don’t need much intelligence or experience to work at fast food restaurants. Also, any of those employees can leave whenever they want, if they aren’t happy they can find a better job, hopefully one that pays better. Trust me, I know, I worked at a fast food restaurant for years. I know it’s not fun, you can’t live solely on minimum wage, it’s tiring, and most of time dealing with customers is a pain. But if your smart enough, take time to fulfill another position, because hoping minimum wage will go up isn’t a promising route.

jerv's avatar

@woodcutter Further proof that those who oppose this idea prefer rhetoric over facts, and ideology over math. What if that 99 cent burger went up to $1.09 instead of $10.90 as you claim?

When they ran the numbers on Papa Johns it turns out that Obamacare would increase his expenses less than 1%. Just giving away less pizza or printing fewer coupons would more than offset that, but instead of doing the morally and mathematically sound thing, John Schnatter acted like a Republican; big stink threats, name-calling… all of which caused his stock to take a tumble solely because he was being a dick.

Think about that; being a dick cost his company more than just sucking it up. It wasn’t and isn’t about money at all!

@rooeytoo Not entirely true; just the ones that make the news. Thing is many places offer nothing but minimum wage jobs. There is no place in the US where the average fair-market on a 2-bedroom apartment is less than 40 hours at minimum wage. Not even 60, unless you count Puerto Rico. In fact, half the country won;t even get you that at 80 hours a week.

Also, as far as the whole master/apprentice thing, you forget that the masters used to give room and board. I would take a wage cut if my boss would pay my rent and fed me; that is where most of my pay goes anyways! My monthly rent is 78 hours of my substantially above minimum wages, and that doesn’t count taxes, insurance, food, utilities, gas, or anything else!

@CWOTUS Very true. Thing is, who costs more; the $15/hr guy who knows his stuff and stays on, or the string of $10/hr temp-of-the-weeks who work slowly, make mistakes (something that, in my field, can cause serious injuries to multiple people in addition to the financial costs), and who require constant training since turnover is ridiculous? Factor that into the cost/benefit analysis and things change a bit.
There are many factors to balance; I agree. Thing is, most are only willing to consider the factors that benefit their side of the argument. But every objective analysis I’ve seen shows that the current minimum wage costs more than it saves; the difference is it saves the people whose incomes have skyrocketed by passing the costs onto the middle class and small business owners.

As for the “living on minimum wage.. it’s your own fault!” argument, I would rather work for minimum wage than not work at all. Most people would. Employers know that. Now, would you pay $6/gallon for gas when the place right next door sells it for $3.79? No! They know they can fill the position since there are enough desperate peopel out there tha tthey don’t need to pay well. And considering the cost of living, anything below $30k/yr can be considered minimum wage in many places.

woodcutter's avatar

There aren’t enough minimum wage earners in the US to make this a national discussion. If you are in your 30’s still pulling minimum then make plans to learn how to do something better. Save min wage for those pimple faced teens.

woodcutter's avatar

@jerv There is no such thing as a .99 burger anywhere. Now eat you that rhetoric sammich….yum.

jerv's avatar

@woodcutter You never saw a fast food joint then, have you? We have plenty that still offer .99 burgers.
Again, ideology trumps reality.

woodcutter's avatar

I don’t go to them. you get what you pay for especially fast food

jerv's avatar

@woodcutter That is actually a great argument for raising minimum wage. Notice what economic tier has the most obesity and health issues associated with poor nutrition? The ones least able to be able to afford good food. And it costs a lot more to treat their preventable medical conditions at taxpayer expense than to give them the ability to afford something fit for human consumption.
In that, low/no minimum wage is penny-wise but pound-foolish.

woodcutter's avatar

@jerv Well if the crap restaurant they work for goes tits up because they pay their workers more than they can to remain profitable they won’t have that job long so you are right about them needing some place else to patronize and be healthier for it. But then they will be unemployed so…

chewhorse's avatar

Fast food wasn’t ever intended to compete with other industries.. it’s beginnings was to employ high school kids at minimum wage who had little or no responsibilities so raises weren’t ever a discussion except through promotion (eg: night manager, etc.) In it’s beginnings it operated tandem with wait staff and servers of restaurants (which I might add still works at less than minimum wage), Certainly fast food should receive minimum wage (as there is little to no tipping in this industry) but there just are no rights beyond that unless you choose to organize as a group. Also, working less than 40 hours was not to eliminate minimum wage as there can be no variation of this wage per federal law, rather to prevent having to give certain perks that full time employees receive in relation to the corporate’s policy (which varies widely between corporations).

jerv's avatar

@chewhorse That may have been the intent, but the Titanic was intended to remain on the surface of the Atlantic, not miles beneath it. Therein lies the problem; the economy is rough enough that you’ll see educated adults work the fryolator simply because they can’t find an alternative. I took a few shit jobs before simply because low pay beats no pay.
Forget intent and look at the actual situation.

@woodcutter If that small a cost increase drives a business down then whoever runs it is so financially inept that the business was doomed. Did you lose your home the last time gas prices went up $0.02/gallon?
Also, keeping wages low increases the need for government and revenue; that leads to higher taxes for all, and more people required to administrate the programs low-wage workers are forced to rely on. I disagree with you in part because I support smaller government, and keeping taxes as low as possible while still covering what needs to be done (my idea of ffiscal responsibility).

CWOTUS's avatar

@jerv you put the cart before the horse in your argument to me. The ”$15 per hour guy who stays on” got the raise to $15 / hour because of his ability to show up, do what was required, and apparently do it well. No one gives a raise to someone “hoping” that he’ll be worth it. The value has to be demonstrated first.

In the real world, anyway…

Kropotkin's avatar

Ladies and gentlemen. Please indulge me in my thought-experiment.

The free-market and the law of supply and demand has so finely and precisely tuned the current wages of fast-food workers, that even a one cent rise in their wages would disrupt the perfect equilibrium of this economic sector and send it into chaos.

Franchise owners would be literally forced to put an extra cent on their burgers to make up for their loss in profits. This would send prices above the equilbrium price and fast-food restaurants will be left with an inventory of slowly rotting food that is suddenly unsellable and which cannot be cleared profitably.

Within days, the entire fast-food restaurant sector of the US would go out of business. Thousands of minimum-wage workers would be made unemployed. Obesity levels would drop as the entire nation’s access to fast-food is limited. The former fast-food workers—now destitute and homeless—would be incentived by their crippling poverty to make something of themselves, and would be impelled to become enterprising and inventive entrepreneurs.

Is this what you all want? Think before you propose wage increases! It’s complex stuff, and it needs me to tell you how complex it is.

jerv's avatar

@CWOTUS Then explain to me the difference in starting wages between companies for the same position. Tell me the difference between working the register at Costco and working the register at Walmart.

jerv's avatar

@Kropotkin Your experiment is disproven by the fact that energy costs have increased faster than the menu prices. So have the costs of ingredients. For those that have billions of light bulbs glowing and who-knows-how-many trucks moving supplies, energy costs have a far greater effect on the bottom line. By your logic, a 2-cent increase in the price of diesel fuel would cause Armageddon.

Kropotkin's avatar

@jerv The invisible hand regulates all things perfectly. If diesel goes up by two cents, then other things change to accomodate this increase—and balance to the universe is restored.

CWOTUS's avatar

@jerv there’s no particular business model that all companies have signed off on. Different strokes for different folks. What Walmart is doing seems to be working for them, and they don’t seem to lack employees or customers. Ditto for Costco. Perhaps for either of them to adopt the other’s policies would be ruinous. Right now each of their models seems to be working… whether you like it or agree with it or not.

When their models stop working, then they’ll either change their policies or go out of business.

jerv's avatar

@Kropotkin I lack your blind faith. Unless you believe that oligopolies and extreme economic disparity is the natural order of things, I cannot see how any sane person can think that.

@CWOTUS Notice which is growing faster and which is having problems . Maybe I just value sustainability over raw profit; 5*20>10*5 if you catch my drift.

woodcutter's avatar

If 15 bucks an hour is to be min wage, then they will still be the poorest people in the country. That is the way of the world. Somebody has to be the lowest paid. Someone who mops a floor should not have the same work value as the guy who keeps all the books or is doing something they had to pay money to learn. How is that fair? Who in the hell will even want to advance themselves in life if they can be made artificially comfortable doing dumb work?

LostInParadise's avatar

@kropotkin, You are not allowing for monopolies. Fast food is dominated by 3 burger chains. This is not a model of perfect free enterprise. There is a lot of profit slack that could be absorbed by the chains without charging extra.

JLeslie's avatar

Why does paying the poor better have anything to do with other wages? If someone is making $7 an hour, and the next level makes $15 and then even higher levels are at $200 an hour, there is all sorts of room to raise up the poor and not have to increase other wages. No one is saying everyone should make the same pay.

Kropotkin's avatar

@woodcutter That argument reminds me of ones like: “how can one be moral without god?” You are making an argument from incredulity. But you are also completely ignoring the concept of job satisfaction. The lowest paid jobs also tend to be intrinsically the least rewarding—they are the most menial and typically require the least creativity and intelligence, and are not fun to do. What you’re implying is that given the same pay between two different jobs, people would prefer to do the job which is boring, repetitive and less fulfilling… which is frankly silly.

@jerv @woodcutter @LostInParadise I do apologise. I was so annoyed and bemused by some of the arguments already put forward in this thread that I decided instead of ranting and writing a full essay picking apart some of the nonsense I’ve read, that I’d just satirise it. I guess it’s funny and scary to me that what I wrote was taken seriously and at face value.

woodcutter's avatar

@Kropotkin ” What you’re implying is that given the same pay between two different jobs, people would prefer to do the job which is boring, repetitive and less fulfilling… which is frankly silly.

You misunderstand me there. The workers in those menial jobs are there because thats what they know how to do. Even if there is little pay difference between a “more fun” job and the “shit job” doesn’t mean they would be qualified to get that job. The shit jobs are for those who have invested little to nothing to their worth to the business. Even if you try to artificially tighten the pay rates to the point of making little difference, it will not stop the human resentment that so and so is getting almost the same pay as the guy who went to school or did some preparing earlier to earn the better position. A business cannot tolerate dissent like that. This leads to the boss loosing control of the enterprise because the hierarchy has broken down. There has to be a structure like that to make people want to get out of the entry positions and move up. Just because the management decides to make the low earners get 15 an hr does not mean there is more room to pay the more valuable workers 50 an hour to keep the spread in the place that reflects the value of each position.

Kropotkin's avatar

@woodcutter This is the part I’m taking issue with: ” Who in the hell will even want to advance themselves in life if they can be made artificially comfortable doing dumb work?”

It just strikes me as such a misanthropic view, and just a little bit sneering. There are a lot of smart people doing “dumb work” because there are no better jobs available. There are a lot of people who were born with the wrong genes, or just didn’t have the right environment and development to fulfil their potential, and the “dumb work” is all they’re able to do. In either case, “dumb work” is still important work; a lot of it underpins the very functioning of our civilisation (okay, maybe not fast-food…) and it’s work that someone has to do. It seems to me that even “dumb work” deserves some dignity and respect, and I see no reason why anyone in our supposedly advanced and prosperous civilization shouldn’t be comfortable.

jerv's avatar

@woodcutter I never said the floor-mopper should be paid the same as the bookkeeper, only that every working person should earn enough to live self-sufficiently instead of either relying on the government or becoming a Third World nation.

So, which is it; are you a supporter of huge government and high taxes, or do you believe that the low -earners are subhuman and thus have no actual right to live? I am neither, and I feel that employers should fix things since the private sector is generally far more efficient than government. You want either government intrusion or class-based human rights violations. I want cost-effective solutions that benefit all, employers and taxpayers included.

exnick's avatar

Humans respond to threats with fight or flight or submission. A government regulated economy means the government threatens the market with violence if they don’t submit to the government’s standards. Given the behavior of businessman, their nature is to fight. Therefore, in regards to minimum wage, a businessman will respond with resistance, defiance, rebellion, retaliation, sabotage, capturing power and recruiting allies. This will be either directly against the threat (the government) or indirectly against the employees, or both.

There is another form of fighting which resembles submission but it is not. The businessman does exactly as he is told and then when there are major problems, he responds with “I was just following your standards”. Community Reinvestment Act and the bank bail-outs that followed illustrates this beautifully.

Since the businessman will never submit to the government, all Government attempts are futile and would only cause more problems. The answer seems simple. Instead of fighting human nature, accommodate it.

If the government actually wins the fight by evolving to its most extreme form (totalitarian) then the markets are in complete submission. This is when you see non-self-starting, and overly dependent people. A dead end. They begin to blame others for their problems. They snitch and cheat. It can evolve to what was Nazi Germany, a form of blind obedience.

Aethelwine's avatar

My son worked at Dairy Queen his entire senior year of high school and graduated 3rd in his class at the end of the year. He did receive small raises based on performance and attendance. Many college students work these “dumb” jobs to help finance their education. Not all fast food workers are dumb asses who want nothing more than a menial job. (the disgust I’m reading here for fast food workers is sad. just sad)

If you work and do your job, then yes, you should get a raise. That doesn’t mean a person at McDonalds should be making $20 an hour after 5 years of loyalty, but if you put the time in and do your job well you should be compensated for it.

JLeslie's avatar

@jonsblond You reminded me when I was in my 20’s I was promoted and I was hoping my new salary would be better than what they gave me. My boss said, “if we pay you too high now there will be no room for raises.” I looked at her and said, “I would rather have the higher pay now and no raise next year.” I didn’t change her mind, but I think she realized that isn’t the brightest thing to say to someone. A bird in the hand you know.

I agree it is awful when anyone implies people are stupid who work lower paid jobs, any of us can wind up needing to work a job we never expected, you just never know. That’s probably the main problem with why pay is so low at the lower levels, there is a lack of respect for that position. I had a friend, really more of an aquaintance) say to me once, “I wasn’t going to wind up working at the mall.” She was talking about growing up and the expectations of her parents. Most of my career was at the mall. People just don’t think.

Jaxk's avatar

It’s not the person that is of low value, it’s the job. Unfortunately, as a society, we seem to identify the person with what they do for a living. If you work in a fast food resturant, you’re a hamburger jockey. You mau have a doctorate in Nuclear physics but you’re still a hamburger jockey. I personally won’t pay a dime more for your doctorate because the job won’t support it.

A few years back I was looking to open a gas station and I noticed something that I found quite interesting. At the time gas was selling for a dollar and change (back around 2004). Gas prices began to rise and once it hit $2/gal something changed. I noticed that a gas staion on one corner would be selling gas for $2.02/gal while the discount staion across the street was $1.99/gal. Three cents different but the discount station would have a line of cars around the block, while the other station would be empty. For 3 cents a gallon it didn’t make any sense to wait in a long line. At 3 cents a gallon that’s only 30 cents for a typical fill-up. The problem seems to be thast people have a threshold. They will only pay so much before they go to extremes to save a few cents. And it takes quite a while to get past that threshold.

I have no idea where that line is for a hamburger but I am convinced there is one. Once the price crosses that line people react with a herd mentality and revolt against it. A couple of cents normally won’t cause you to go somewhere else but when that line is reached people react en masse and go somewhere else. A business can fail by crossing that line. I would bet that a lot of the gas stations that went belly up back in 2005 said the same thing that many here have said, ‘a couple of cents can’t possibly have much impact on the business’.

JLeslie's avatar

@Jaxk I agree there is a threshold, your gas price example is a great one. People can be irrational and drive out of their way burning an extra gallon to buy gas cheaper, and then the savings is even less. But, my question would be, how much profit is the company making per burger or per gallon? There is a threshold for what price the market is willing to pay, and there is a threshold for profit. Paying a little more might mean the company makes less profit if the market won’t bear a higher retail price, it doesn’t have to mean the company goes broke.

jerv's avatar

@Jaxk Entirely true. But they can also go belly-up when consumers have less money because their employers pay less too. That’s less true of essentials like gas, but considering how much of our economy relies on consumer spending, it’s a factor that must be considered.
Of course, that means that big companies have an edge because they can get bulk discounts that small business (the kind that creates most of the jobs) cannot, allowing them to sell at lower prices while still maintaining a decent margin. So, the cost of low prices is higher unemployment.
There are many factors to consider on the micro and macro scale. What is good for a business may have repercussions that are bad for everybody in the long run. It doesn’t help that there are no easy solutions despite how desperately everyone wants one, but pouring napalm on the fire won’t solve anything. Let’s look at what dramatic changes we made before the shit hit the fan and undo the ones that made/make things worse.

Jaxk's avatar

@JLeslie The problem is that if you raise the salaries, it is not McDonalds that pays those salaries, it is the small fanchisee. McDonalds sets the price but the expenses are borne by the small business owner. I guarentee he’s not making millions on his resturant, more likely just squeezing by.


“So, the cost of low prices is higher unemployment.” You are totally missing the basics of the cost curve. As prices go down, volume goes up. As prices go up, volume goes down. Lower prices do not equate to higher unemployment.

jerv's avatar

@Jaxk And you seem to have missed my point; small businesses create jobs, but face cost hurdles that huge companies don’t. The obvious solution is to just do away with small business to cut prices. Would killing all of the mom-and-pop operations mean the big boys will create enough jobs to absorb those that lost their jobs when small business went under?
Honestly, I feel small business owners are in just as tough a spot as many workers. Most are comfortable at best; not actually wealthy, and many are struggling to stay afloat. It’s hard to improve the lot of workers without causing small business more pain…

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