Not sure if you saw this last week, but the McDonald's annual shareholders meeting was targeted by wage activists looking to bump the entry level wage at the fast food giant from 8 or 9 dollars an hour to - wait for it - $15 per hour. Here's a taste of the story from USA Today, then let's talk after the jump:
"In a prelude to protests planned for the McDonald's annual shareholders meeting Thursday morning, police arrested 139 protesters on Wednesday afternoon outside McDonald's world headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill.
Oak Brook police said protesters arrested for criminal trespass were from a group of 101 McDonald's workers and 38 clergy and union activists who chose to cross a police barricade. Workers chanted "Hey McDonald's You Can't Hide, We Can See Your Greedy Side," and "No Big Macs, No Fries, Make our Wage Supersize," as the arrests were made.
Workers and activists — who demand $15-per-hour pay and the right for fast-food workers to try to unionize without retaliation — say they have focused on McDonald's because of its size and influence. "Workers are taking on the biggest, baddest, richest in the $200 billion fast-food industry," says Kendall Fells, leader of Fast Food Forward. "If we can bring McDonald's to the table, the road ahead will be a lot easier."
Some thoughts on the protests in no particular order:
1. As someone who's done OK in their career, I'm sensitive to the people behind the counter being at $8 per hour. Seems like it should be more, and one of the things that's the most alarming in America is the fact that the "middle class" is increasing shrinking. Seems like there's rich folks, there's poor folks, then there's a middle class that's not really growing and due to the down-slide of manufacturing in the past decades in the US, people at the entry level are less mobile into the middle class.
2. There's something to be said for drive. Those with it go up, those without it don't go up. They stay at the low wage.
3. You don't have to have a college degree or be raised in a perfect environment to advance at a place like McDonald's.
You agree with statement #1? The next question is whether that's based on fact or what I'll call "achiever guilt". You've done well - so are you trying to avoid guilt by saying you're for higher wages at McDonald's? Is your stance based on fact or guilt?
The bottom line is that countless people have started in entry level jobs at places like McDonald's and risen from the ranks to do great things in their career. Is it better for the system to work that way, or simply give all in that position a higher wage?
I'm not sure. People not making a living wage isn't great for society. You could argue that they're being taken advantage of. Or you could argue that there's an invisible hand that's market-based that's deciding who gets a higher wage and who's left to try to survive.
That's ugly without a doubt. It's trendy to say that companies like McDonald's simply need to raise wages.
Then you get stranded in a snowstorm like I did and spend a few hours in a McDonald's in rural Georgia - with the town around it completely shut down. You watch a young manager try to keep the place open and because it's payday, see 12 people come in to pick up a live check. You see the young manager plead with all who are there to pick up the live check (they can't do anything with it, by the way, because the banks are closed) to help out by working a couple of hours. Click on the link to get the full back story.
And you see the young manager go 0 for 11 until someone finally says yes. 1 out of 12! If it's your business and you see that manager go 0 for 11, do you think that raising wages is the answer?
I'm sensitive to the living wage argument and the impact it has on society.
My time in that McDonald's during Snowmegeddon in the South tells me this - it's complicated.