Should McDonald’s and Other Fast Food Workers Make $15 an Hour?

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My second job in a string of many was working at McDonald’s when I was 16.  Honestly, I disliked the job immensely and hopped ship as soon as I could to work at my third job, a dry cleaners.  But that’s a different story.

Still, when I worked at McDonald’s, the only people who worked with me that were older than high school or college age were the managers.  One manager was young, only 24.  McDonald’s and other fast food restaurants were starting jobs for teens.

Times have changed.  According to the Wall Street Journal, “A recent analysis by the Economic Policy Institute shows more than 88% of workers making minimum wage are older than 20 years of age.”  Even if these workers make $8 an hour and work full-time, they are only earning $16,000, which most single adults would have trouble living on, let alone those with dependents to support.

Yet, is this McDonald’s problem?  Because more and more adults seek fast food jobs, should the fast food companies be responsible for paying their employees more than minimum wage?

The Trade Offs of Paying a Higher Wage

We’re a nation that loves McDonald’s.  In fact, McDonald’s serves “69 million hungry customers per day” (Wall Street Journal).  We’ve been trained to hit McDonald’s for the dollar menu.  Buy the cheapest items on the menu in large quantities to get a better bang for our buck.  Would customers still go to McDonald’s in droves if they had to pay more per meal?

The Wall Street Journal argues that in Australia, McDonald’s workers already earn $15 an hour.  However, there is a trade off.  In Australia, “Only some of this higher cost of labor is passed on to consumers. The rest is absorbed by using more technology than people, and demanding more productivity from the fewer people they pay this higher wage” (Wall Street Journal).

Would those who are currently protesting be willing to potentially lose their jobs so that others get a higher paying job?  Would those who get the higher paying jobs at McDonald’s be willing to take on the additional stress of having to do more work since there are fewer employees?

There Are Other Solutions

There are other solutions to this dilemma.

1.  If you don’t work at McDonald’s but want to support fast food employees, you could give up the convenience of fast food and only patronize those companies that pay their employees a living wage.  When the fast food industry takes a hit to their bottom line, they may be willing to revamp their selling model.  I recently read that Costco pays its employees $22 an hour!  Now that is a company to support.

2.  If you do work at McDonald’s, you could try to get out of the low wage trap by pursuing a trade or a career that will pay better.  In the short term, depending on your circumstances, that may seem impossible.  However, trying to support yourself and your family on $16,000 a year is also impossible.  Taking the steps to improve yourself and get a better job is the only way to get out of the minimum wage trap.

What are your thoughts on paying fast food workers a living wage?