Politics of Fast Food Wages, Part IV: What’s a Fair Wage?

Someone mentioned that we’re obligated to pay Fast Food workers a so called “living wage” because they work dead end jobs.  Bullshit.  former McDonald’s CEO Charlie Bell started working at McDonald’s at age 15.  At 19, he was the youngest store manager ever in Australia.  Managing director at 29, CEO at 42.  Not bad for someone without a college degree.  Say what you want about McDonald’s menu, but they provide far better career opportunities than do small businesses like Alive Juice Bar.  One has a much better chance of making a million bucks a year working for McDonald’s than at Alive Juice Bar.  Or at Tom Douglas Restaurants.  Or as a corporate lawyer for Skadden Arps.  Or as a surgeon at UW Hospitals.  I don’t see the dead-end.  I only hear people wrongly assume that because there are a lot of people who never end up making “living wage” at Fast Food restaurants means they’re in dead-end jobs.

“But these people who aren’t management material still need a so-called living wage,” some argue. “It’s not their fault they don’t have the ability to work their way up to a living wage.”

So stick the bill to the employer.  Blame the business, even though the source of the dead-end mentality that prevents a Fast Food worker from ever rising to management is more likely found at home and in schools. So stick the entire bill to the business even though we’re collectively at fault for producing masses of spiritless and aimless citizens and workers?  To those who want to raise minimum wage to $15/hour, who rail against the injustice of current minimum wage, how about YOU do the right thing and hire minimum wage workers to work for YOU at $15/hour.  The additional competition for their labor will force Fast Food businesses to raise wages, right?  Have them walk your dog, clean your house, wipe your ass, mow your lawn, discipline your kids, feed your cats, suck your dick, whatever, I’m sure you can figure out how to use someone to make you more productive and your life a bit easier.  And be sure to give them at least four hour shifts.


A McDonald’s manager without a (useless) college degree makes $42000 a year.  A staff accountant fresh out of college makes the same.  Let’s say it took McDonald’s manager three years to reach his position, during which he made $10-$13 dollars an hour and was sent to Hamburger U (this is real school, not trying to be funny) to take business management classes, free of charge. Took accountant four years of college to obtain degree necessary to attain her position.  Accountant has to pay for her degree. The accountant also works 500 more hours a year than does the McDonald’s manager.

Who’s better off, the kid who got a job at McDonald’s after high school and worked his way up to management or the accountant who went to college after high school and is now 50k in debt?  I don’t see how an entry level job at McDonald’s is a dead end.

What about surgeons?  Four years undergrad taking an extremely difficult courseload; a year to prepare for MCATs; four years in medical school, where professors routinely call you a “nitwit” and “dumb fuck.”  Then five to six years as an intern, making $60,000 a year while working 100 hours a week and your boss routinely calls you a “moron.”  You’re $400,000 in debt so $60,000 is actually closer to $25,000 a year.  One hundred hours a week at $25,000 a year is BELOW minimum wage. Sure sure, so the vascular surgeon will make $400,000 a year 10 years after finishing residency.  But Charlie Bell, who didn’t go to college, was making more than that when he was 29 years old working for McDonald’s!


There aren’t many jobs that pay well at first (engineering is exception).  Sure sure, the financial analyst fresh out of college makes 80k a year.  She also works 100 hours a week.  Her hourly wage is comparable to that of a security guard.  The McDonald’s manager likely makes more per hour.

The question then: if Fast Food workers need more money to live, why don’t they get second or third jobs?  (Some do, usually immigrants).  Eighty hours a week at $10 an hour, that’s 40k a year.  That’s sufficient, twice as much as grad student TAs and RAs make.  And as pointed out before, there’s room to grow for those who work on their leadership and management skills.   Those who don’t develop adequate management skills, read Part I again.

In a free market (no cartels, no unions), people are paid based on value they produce for a business.  How much one is paid has nothing to do with how gross a job is, or how “hard” someone works.  Produce value that exceeds money paid to you and you keep your job.  Produce value that exceeds many times over money paid to you and you’ll be promoted and given a raise.  Produce negative value — your fuck ups cost money to fix — and you’re fired.  It’s that simple, yet nearly all my applicants don’t know how to calculate the value of their labor.  It’s why so many of them are slowly killing themselves with envy.


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