Protesting fast food workers have a point, even if demanding a $15-per-hour minimum wage is absurd.
In major cities across the nation Thursday, fast food workers walked off the job and protested, demanding the federal government raise the minimum wage from the current $7.25 to $15 per hour, in addition to the right to unionize without trouble.
Yes, we admit it. More than doubling the minimum wage would be insane. Critics of the protesters point out raising wages that high that quickly would drain business of its money, forcing them to fire employees just when the economy is beginning to pick up at least a little bit of steam.
They’re partially right. Small businesses, not to mention local municipalities and state governments that are often stretched far too thin for their own goods, would be hurt by such a sudden spike in the minimum wage.
But don’t feel sorry for fast food giants such as McDonald’s or for other corporate giants such as Wal-Mart that pay their employees the minimum wage. These business behemoths rake in billions in revenue and profits year in and out and are more than able to pay their employees more.
A $15 minimum wage might be pushing it and demanding that much for a fast food worker when many first responders make less is tough to justify. That being said, a fast food worker, especially one who has a family to raise, can typically hardly get by on a minimum wage job as it currently stands. Workers far too often are forced to work two full-time jobs and are still forced to choose between heat or food. Meanwhile, McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson received $13.8 million in 2012, despite falling sales.
That should be unacceptable in the wealthiest country in the world.
This is not about disparaging the rich or waging a class war. It even goes beyond simply setting standards of decency. It should be about standard economics.
Paying fast food employees more would put more money into their pockets, meaning they’d be more likely to spend money in the restaurant they work at or elsewhere, thus boosting the business throughout the nation. That means more money flowing into the government through taxes, meaning these governments that currently have far too little money flowing through them thanks to a smaller tax base will finally be able to run at least a bit more efficiently again.
When businesses and municipalities have more money flowing through them, that means a minimum wage increase, whether to $9 or $15, is more reasonable. That means we can continue to pump money into the economy without the need for some sort of government bailout. It also means fewer people on welfare, a.k.a. smaller government, a.k.a. what most minimum wage increase opponents advocate for.
So, despite some unreasonable demands, these protesting fast food workers do have a point. The question is if our business and political leaders will heed their message.