McDonald’s CEO Stomped On The Biggest Myth About Having A Higher Minimum Wage

Here’s why the latest statement from Steve Easterbrook, McDonald’s CEO, on raising the minimum wage, matters so much: The movement to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour has been on the rise of late, and there’s no shortage of myths connected to it. Raising the minimum wage will just “raise unemployment rates,” or solely “benefit entitled teens,” or is more than “low-skill” food service labor deserves… You get the gist. And when it comes to raising wages in the fast food industry, following probably the most prevalent myth, higher wages will lead to some rapid, apocalyptic conversion to automation. Basically, we need someone to speak truth to bullshit in this matter.

After revealing higher wages contributed to growth in sales for the past three quarters just weeks ago, Easterbrook opened up about a key reason paying employees in the fast food industry a higher wage isn’t about to lead to a real-life version of Terminator revolution in restaurants, after thousands of protesters camped outside McDonald’s corporate headquarters to fight for a $15 minimum wage.

“I don’t see [a $15 minimum wage] being a risk to job elimination. Ultimately we’re in the service business. We will always have an important human element,” Easterbrook said. Further, earlier this month Easterbrook stated that the “improvements” made to employees’ “compensation and benefits package” not only “resulted in lower crew turnover,” but ultimately contributed to higher customer satisfaction scores.

If, last year, when homophobes across the nation flocked to Chick-fil-A after a series of homophobic comments from its CEO, doesn’t sufficiently prove consumers offer their patronage to businesses that share their values (whether the issue at hand pertains to gay marriage or economic sustainability), then maybe, just maybe these latest revelations from Easterbook will?

His words on raising the minimum wage and the potential of job loss due to automation are in sharp contrast with those of Andy Puzder, CEO of Carl’s Jr., who essentially told Business Insider he was interested in the idea of cutting jobs and replacing human workers with automation: “They’re always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case.”

Sure, Puzder is entitled to his own gloomy outlook on the human race (and to fall in love with robots, as it would seem he already has), but Easterbrook isn’t alone in contradicting him when it comes to human workers and automation in the fast food industry: The facts do, too.

Vox reported in July:

“Rather than an accelerating pace of automation, we’ve actually been living through a slowdown in the pace of productivity growth. …The American economy has grown, but largely by adding workers rather than by workers equipping themselves with powerful new machines to multiply their capabilities.”

And at any rate, raising the minimum wage, even if by only a little has historically led to all kinds of benefits, from raising the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and, in general, increasing consumption as more Americans had more money to spend, being less economically limited to necessities due to higher wages, Salon reports.

But alas, all of the boring math aside, would you want to eat at a restaurant knowing it had fired thousands of employees and replaced them with automated order-taking kiosks? If you have a human heart and aren’t an automated machine, yourself, the answer is probably no, and that’s exactly the point Eaterbrook is making.