McDonald’s CEO Promises Customers Better Service From Underpaid Employees

McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook released a 23 minute long video today outlining the company’s plan for improving sales in hopes of competing with more appealing-seeming fast-food outlets like Chipotle, Shake Shack and Five Guys. The plan, he says, is to become a more “modern, progressive” burger company through increasing franchise ownership to 90 percent of the company’s stores, improving food and improving service.

However, no mention was made of “progressively” increasing workers wages and perhaps cracking down on franchise owners who engage in wage theft by forcing employees to clock out and continue working, or not paying them for overtime work.

I’m sorry, but I sincerely don’t think anyone ought to be promising “better service” from employees who are being paid the absolute minimum. “How about you do better work and we continue to pay you the absolute least we are legally allowed to pay you?” is not such a good deal for most people. Sorry, but you get what you pay for. Which, let us just say, is a phrase that resonates with just about everything about McDonald’s.

Increasing franchisee ownership is actually worse for employees, as the recent 72-cent wage hike at McDonald’s stores did not apply to those owned by franchisees. To boot, the franchise model makes it easy for McDonald’s to skirt issues like wage theft and labor violations by saying “OH! That’s not us doing that! It’s a franchisee!” Frankly, the only people that franchise system benefits are the millionaires who have the money to buy themselves a McDonald’s.

Interestingly, Easterbrook points out that Australia is currently their lead market. The minimum wage for adults in Australia is $14.50 an hour, and on top of that, in 2013 the Australian government approved a labor deal between workers and the company for a 15 percent raise.

To boot, McDonald’s also brings in more revenue in Europe than from America, where the minimum wage is usually higher as well.

Are these things related? I think they are. On the one hand, people who are being paid a fair wage that they can live off of will give better service. It’s human nature. Think about it–if you were working 40 hours a week, at a McDonald’s, which is likely a less than pleasant job–and on top of that worrying about how you were going to feed yourself and pay your rent, you would probably have a lot of resentment built up and it is unlikely you would really feel like doing a stellar job.

In 2013, McDonald’s created a budget template to show how their employees could survive on the minimum wage–which inadvertently proved that it is impossible to live on the minimum wage.


Although the national minimum wage is $7.25, the actual take-home pay for a minimum wage worker after taxes is closer to $6.70. Meaning that in order to actually make $2,060 in a month (and still not be able to afford food or gas and other normal things), a minimum wage employee would have to work 76 hours a week–almost two full time jobs. You think someone that is either working 76 hours a week or simply surviving on much less is going to provide your company with stellar service? Probably not! They’re probably too busy trying not to pass out from either hunger or from being overworked.

Employees who feel valued, who aren’t struggling, are going to do better work. If you pay the minimum, expect to get it handed right back to you.

Another reason why this might affect McDonald’s bottom line? It feels pretty gross to give your money to a company when you know that this is what their employees are dealing with. It’s not a good feeling, it makes you feel like you are doing a bad thing, and generally speaking, people like to feel as though they are doing good things. It also sucks to know that because the company and franchise owners wish to have more money for themselves, that our tax money very often has to subsidize the crap wages they pay.

Part of Easterbrook’s plan involves courting higher income customers with things like $5 “sirloin burgers” and “artisan chicken sandwiches” and more “healthy” options. Sorry, going inside a McDonald’s is in and of itself incredibly depressing. Exploited workers don’t really do a lot for one’s appetite. The sort of people McDonald’s is trying to court with “artisan chicken sandwiches” are also the sort of people who are likely skeeved by their labor practices.

Personally, I don’t want to hear anything about how McDonald’s is becoming a “modern, progressive” burger company while they are paying their workers poverty wages. I don’t care. I could give two artisan shits about “artisan chicken sandwiches” that are definitely not “artisan chicken sandwiches” anyway. These improvements are all about making more money for their stock-holders and their franchise owners, both of whom already have enough to begin with.

Personally,  I’m not lovin’ it.

[Huffington Post]