Invisible Harmful Consequences of High Minimum Wage
The kiosk made its debut in our McDonald’s this week, or at least I saw and used it for the first time. It is almost, but not quite, idiot-proof. There were no cashiers up front, but a kind assistant manager came out from behind the counter and talked me through the navigation.
The big takeaway is that McDonald’s and other fast food chains are almost, but not quite, at the mercy of pandering Progressives who impose their will to enact a higher minimum wage. It appeared that no more than four or five employees were running the whole operation when we visited during the lunch rush.
Thank goodness workers have valiant Democrats protecting us from greedy employers. Unfortunately, that requires protecting some of us from employment itself.
It’s a sad story when a young person never gets that first job, never gets a chance to demonstrate a strong work ethic and punctuality. It corrodes their self-image, and often leads to substance abuse and criminal lifestyles. It’s hard on families and relationships.
As Allie Beth Stuckey has said, work is not a necessary evil. It’s a necessary good. The absence of honorable work creates a vacuum, and that vacuum will be filled by something. If not crime, perhaps political extremism. Or maybe both.
Somebody will pay for creating a class of unemployed and unemployable young people, but it won’t be the cynical Progressive politicians. Unemployed, unskilled young people are unlikely to diagnose the cause of their unemployment unless they’ve taken some upper-level economics in college, and this is the genius of the Democrats’ position.
They’ll demand and receive lavish praise from the beneficiaries of a higher minimum wage, but they’ll never be held accountable for the devastating impact of their legislation on new, unskilled workers and their families and communities. That will be attributed to racism, underfunded public education or the ever-popular “greedy corporations.”
There was a 2012 fast food strike in New York City, but it got limited traction at the time. I would say that the minimum wage groundswell launched from the Progressive precincts of the Pacific Northwest a few years later. Ballot initiatives imposed some of the minimum wage increases, and some were imposed by city councils.
My work took me through Seattle often during that period. In the months after Seattle enacted a stout minimum wage increase, I noticed that several small family-owned restaurants had closed. Kiosks can’t wash dishes and bus tables yet.
But down the coast in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, clever engineers and coders were devising the technology that would save the restaurant industry from unsustainable high wages. Good for them, good for the restaurant owners, disastrous for young, inexperienced workers.
The move to automation, once made, is irreversible. Consider the advantages to an owner: no payroll, no social security contribution, no scheduling drama, no training, no slip-and-fall or back injuries, no embarrassing racial accusations, and no #MeToo claims of sexual harassment. The kiosk offers the employer peace of mind, not just financial advantages.
Of course, the remaining back-of-the-house workers can’t be replaced by a machine. Yet.
The Democratic platform advocates increasing the current $7.25 federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. The majority of Congressional Democrats have committed to the $15 figure, but some have advocated an intermediate $12 wage before transitioning to the higher wage.
Rep. Keith Ellison and Sen. Bernie Sanders have introduced legislation to automatically increase the federal minimum wage from that $15, based on median national wage growth. Ellison’s measure would also outlaw the practice of paying tip employees less than the minimum wage. There are, lamentably, already kiosks at restaurant tables, eliminating opportunities for single mothers and college kids.
Even President Donald Trump has said he favors an increase to $10 per hour. So the handwriting is on the wall. The fast food chain executives aren’t paranoid, just rational. They don’t want to go broke. They don’t want to get fired by stockholders. There will be a lot more kiosks, and a lot fewer employees.
by Bart Stinson