The growing pressure to increase the minimum wage is frequently met with a prediction that wage increases will hurt both businesses and consumers–if that hamburger costs five cents more, fewer people will buy it, and that will lead to layoffs that hurt the very people higher wages are meant to help. (It’s interesting–and telling– that the prospect of better pay for employees always triggers an expectation of increased prices for consumers rather than a modest decrease in returns to shareholders. But I digress.)
So how’s that prediction holding up in the real world?
After raising the wages to over 90,000 employees and providing more incentives and benefits, Steve Easterbrook, McDonald’s CEO is pleased to announce the company’s turnaround plan is actually working. Profits are up, employee turnover is lower, and customer satisfaction scores are higher.
According to Fortune Magazine,
“U.S. comparable sales rose 5.4 percent, their third straight increase after what had been two years of declines.” This is partly due to their new menu deals and all-day breakfast, but it’s also undeniable customer satisfaction due to happier employees is also a factor in that growth. Which just killed a popular right wing talking point that increasing wages and providing more benefits hurts business, at least for McDonald’s it hasn’t.
So let’s see: McDonald’s CEO says the company measured an overall 6 percent rise in customer satisfaction, and he attributed that improvement to better compensation and incentive packages for employees. (There is no mention in these reports of price increases, nor data suggesting that people have stopped buying Big Macs.)
Not-so-incidentally, it has been estimated that raising wages for McDonald’s employees (and employees of the company’s franchisees, who have not thus far been included in this experiment) would significantly reduce the burden on American taxpayers. Currently, we are paying 1.2 billion dollars every year to cover public assistance needed just for McDonald’s employees who are not paid a living wage.
In other words, American taxpayers are subsidizing the profits of McDonalds and similar low-wage employers; we are essentially paying that part of employee compensation that represents the difference between what McDonald’s (and Walmart and others) pay their workers and what those employees require in order to live.
McDonalds’ real-world experience suggests that these companies can afford to pay their employees an adequate wage without taxpayer help–and still keep their shareholders fat and happy.