The Fast-Food Pay Strike

Is it the dumbest strike ever?

Well, that’s stiff competition, but I suppose some strike has to be.

This is fundamentally a Marxist strike. That is, their argument is not that they should be paid more because they are really worth more, but because they can’t live on the wage it pays (“…to each according to his need”). If they can’t live on burger flipping, then they should get a better job. If they can’t find a better job, maybe they should complain to the moron that most of them helped put in the White House who is waging war on job creators.

24 thoughts on “The Fast-Food Pay Strike”

  1. We had touch screen trials at a number of different fast food outlets.. oh.. fifteen years ago or so. There’s a few places I know of that still have them. They do sort of assume a level of literacy that may not be present in the population.

    As for automating the back room, it’s happening more incrementally than I’d like.

    1. Artificially drive up the cost of unskilled labor, and mechanization will sound a lot more appealing. It’s already happening with sodas, for instance, without any help.

  2. It’s not necessarily irrational to form a union and strike if the hold up value of striking can obtain a significantly higher monoposony wage. If poverty assistance programs pay nearly minimum wage, then it’s almost irrelevant to the striker in money terms if the fast food employer goes out of business.

    1. Alas, it is. We have more then enough data to show that any union will get captured by the worst workers, and they will drive out the good workers. Then Detroit. In both senses. The death of their auto industry, and the current death of their government unions. Time and time again, unions have shown they cannot manage the “Tragedy of the Commons”.

  3. Several fast food chains have modified the way they handle drive through orders by implementing remote call centers. In some restaurants, when you pull into a drive through to place an order, you’re talking to someone in a call center that might be in another state. This reduces the number of employees each restaurant needs because you don’t have people waiting for a customer to pull in. If they raise the minimum wage, look for more restaurants to implement efficiency moves like this. When you increase the cost of labor, employers buy less of it. Imagine that.

    A McDonalds franchise owner in Colorado Springs pioneered this in 2004

    Relevant article from 2009

    Another example from 2007

  4. Another factor is that if your fast food burger is going to cost as much as a fancy steakhouse burger, you might as well go get it at a steakhouse, or just grab a hot dog or packaged deli sandwich at the gas station.

    1. Americans are clever, and burgers and dogs are something people do for fun. I know a guy who gets “buy-in” for his cookouts. He’s making a profit, not that’s why he’s doing it. How long before an unemployed guy becomes the neighborhood cookout pro? You would get a lot more food for your dollar, and it would be fresher, and made with a lot more love then a sullen disgruntled teenager can manage…..

  5. Google “burger making robot” – the smart restaurant owners will begin installing this soon.

    It does raise a good question, however. What will we do with all the folks on the left side of the intelligence curve? Not everyone can be a technician.

    1. No, they won’t. I’ve read that article, as well as the public statements of the company in question. It’s darn near vaporware.

      I’ve also worked as a cook, and this idea is so silly it’s nearly funny. No machine can replace a decent short-order cook.

      How about all the pissed off customers waiting for their “gourmet” hamburgers after the conveyor chain jumps a link, or the blower goes out. That machine is maintenance nightmare, not to mention the health code issues. Here’s one: allergy and/or contamination issues due to custom grinding various meats in the same grinder.

      1. I’ve also worked as a cook, and this idea is so silly it’s nearly funny. No machine can replace a decent short-order cook.


        It will come, eventually. And the same technologies will also allow robots to wash toilets and sweep the street, and make the beds, and thousands of other mindless, repetitive tasks.

        Again, what will we do with the people who used to do those jobs? We have maybe a generation, two at most, to come up with some kind of answer.

      2. @Casey: You may have worked as a short order cook, but not at a McDonalds or other modern fast-food outlet, which is what this article is about. What different meats are they grinding? What meat are they grinding in a McDonalds restaurant at all? They receive preformed ground beef patties or chicken breasts (some breaded). The chicken tenders come in large bags ready to be heated.

        They keep the variety of expensive ingredients to a minimum. It’s all assembly-line work, most of which is done in a factory. Only final heating and assembly is done in the restaurant.

        As the cost of labor goes up, less will be used. There will be more mechanization, and probably higher prices and fewer sales. I don’t know if this will result will be a new stability point or a death spiral, especially when you add Obamacare to this.

        Remember Hostess.

  6. The easy one to me has always been Mexican food. At least, the Americanized-version of it seems mighty amenable to automation.

  7. I also notice he takes at face value EPI “analysis”.

    Problem is, you probably shouldn’t.

    From their About page: The Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a non-profit, non-partisan think tank, was created in 1986 to broaden discussions about economic policy to include the needs of low- and middle-income workers. EPI believes every working person deserves a good job with fair pay, affordable health care, and retirement security

    “Non-partisan” read “Progressive left”.

    (I do find it amusing that they declare everyone “deserves” all those things simply for the fact of having any employment whatsoever.

    The idea that all those things actually depend on creating value sufficient to pay for them, and more is anathema.)

  8. What I would like to know is: When did somebody get the idea that a minimum wage part-time job was supposed to provide anyone a “living wage”? Historically, the minimum wage part-time job was a first job to build experience, or the second (or third) job to bring in extra money (school could be defined here as a “first job”). As Rand said, ” If they can’t live on burger flipping, then they should get a better job.”

    1. The notion of apprenticeship with a few years of practice before gaining a mastery upon which to earn a living has been replaced with: Houses, Healthcare, College Education is a right. So living wage is just another right. If things provided others are rights, then instant gratification suggests one should claim their rights right now.

      1. I’ve noticed a strange sense of entitlement on the part of many young people. They seem to believe they deserve to start out at the same standard of living that their parents took decades to achieve.

  9. McDonalds in Switzerland pays over $20/hr.

    But then again, they charge $16 for the small cheeseburger “value” meal with an 8oz Coke (a size unavailable in the US as being too small).

    It’s all relative. In Zimbabwe, which trims zeros off the worthless currency every few years, idiot socialists have managed to drive up the McDonald value meal to $2700 in local currency.

    1. “a size unavailable in the US as being too small”

      For a couple of years now[1], McDonald’s has offered $1 sodas–in any size. McDonald’s has self-service soda machines.

      Amazingly, I can buy a $1 medium and only fill it partway. It takes a tiny bit of self-restraint. Nobody’s forcing you to fill and drink a larger soda, and it costs the same no matter how much you buy.

      At least in the US. I don’t know about other countries.

  10. A single male never married can live on a fast food paycheck. It’s called minimalism. Too bad for the morons who start famblies on these paychecks, the stupid shall be punished.

    1. A lot of people do this crazy thing called “getting a roommate to share on living expenses,” too. Any budget goes quite a bit farther when you’re only paying half the rent+utilities.

  11. Just wait until all these workers have their hours cut in half due to Obamacare. Will they march on Obama’s office and have a sit in?

    Oh wait…

    Half the hours at double the pay. It all makes sense now.

  12. I’m going to insert a link to an interesting posting made by Rand three years ago. He wrote a piece titled Worker Abuse which linked to an interesting piece by Eric Raymond.

    I am hardly uncritical of unions. Unfortunately, though, unions were reasonable responses to conditions that were quite unreasonable. Imagine 5 year old girls hauled into factories and working from 6 AM to 7 PM and sometimes 5 AM to 9 PM. That happened back in the 18th century in England.

    Read some Charles Dickens. He helped reform England back in the 19th Century. The things he and others fought for made society better for everyone.

    Free enterprise? I’m on board. Abusive management? Not at all.

    1. I think you mean the 19th century. Charles Dickens 1812-1870.

      What so many advocates of child labor laws blankout is what happens to the child when they can’t get work: they often starve and die. The lucky ones get to work in the hot sun all day on a subsistence farm. Their parents choose to send them to work because it’s the best available option.

      Child labor laws assume a fundamental lie which should be disturbing to everyone: the state knows what’s best for your child, more than you do.

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