An extra-value lesson in fast-food economics
Fast-food workers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your jobs!
OK, so the familiar variation on a “Communist Manifesto” theme from Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels ends with “chains,” not “jobs.”
But five of the six local fast-food workers I polled Friday were united in their resolve not to strike for higher pay.
The lone dissenter, a working woman at McDonald’s, cited her inability to get by on the $7.25 per hour minimum wage: “They’ve got to do something.”
Yet as another working woman at Wendy’s put it, speaking for the 83.3 percent majority of my survey: “I need this job.”
And you don’t need an economics degree to know that if fast-food entrepreneurs heed loud calls to pay workers $15 an hour, we’ll have far fewer fast-food joints — and workers. We’ll also have to pay more for fast-food fare that low-income Americans, including fast-food workers, regularly buy.
Hey, that McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish is quite tasty.
But where’s the McRib?
And where was the logic Thursday from the thousands of fast-food staffers who walked off their jobs in 50 U.S. cities?
At least this underpaid journalist found no evidence of fast-food workers in our state participating in that self-defeating exercise. Still, the demonstrations extended to Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. Dorian Warren, a political scientist at Columbia University, told Reuters that this regional reach was “a huge, huge deal,” explaining:
“The South has always been the model for low-wage employment, from slavery to the Jim Crow laws, to the present. It’s also the most anti-union part of the country, so the fact that workers feel empowered enough to take collective action is enormous.”
So now demanding 15 bucks an hour for flipping burgers in the South constitutes defiance of a low-wage “model” that extends “from slavery to the Jim Crow laws to the present”?
More like it constitutes defiance of job-market realities.
And a happy Labor Day Weekend to you too.
Let them eat burgers
Yes, more fast-food workers in these hard times have more financial obligations than the stereotypical high school kid asking, “Want fries with that?”
However, my own long-ago ordeal as a fast-food-worker taught me lasting lessons, including the importance of:
a) Punctuality: Keep showing up late and you’ll get fired.
b) Reliability: Keep failing to show up and you’ll get fired.
c) Teamwork: When the lines are long, the kitchen is hot and you’re shorthanded, you’re all in that mess together.
d) Attention to detail: Some customers become agitated when they pay for a large order of nachos and you give them a small one.
But the most important lesson from my fast-food course:
There’s got to be a better way to make money.
A related lesson:
When your boss, soon after you start a fast-food gig, offers to make you assistant manger, just say “No!”
But foolishly flattered and not knowing several co-workers had wisely turned it down, I accepted that 1977 promotion at Taco Tico in the Clemson Mini-mall.
The salary boost was from $2.90 an hour (already well above the then-minimum wage of $2.30) to $3.05.
The obligation boost included closing up — and being responsible for cash-register shortages.
To quit or not to quit?
Though we wore red shirts and paper hats, that study in the perils of leadership re-confirmed the validity of this line from the title character in William Shakespeare’s “Henry IV”: “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”
And though my Taco Tico tenure lasted less than a year, it put me off my beloved Mexican cuisine for months.
The massive crowds on football Saturdays were particularly trying. The night the meat went bad was worse, as that vile stench clung to me through the next day,
So sure, fast-food workers have it tough — and have my empathy.
So that’s not news.
In 1969, the Little Red Hen on Sam Rittenberg Boulevard paid a pretty girl I knew a mere dollar an hour.
That Little Red Hen is gone. That pretty girl is still around.
So is this economic equation: When costs loaded on businesses by government and/or unions grow too heavy, businesses thin worker ranks.
Some overburdened businesses even go out of business.
And if another Burger King closes, you’ll likely have to drive much farther to try its savory new BK Rib Sandwich.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.