|When Henry Ford realized it was good business to pay employees enough to buy the products they built, it was a breakthrough, not only because the idea challenged the reflex to pay as little as possible, but because the product was a car. He was talking real bucks.|
In response to escalating protests by McDonald’s employees calling for higher wages and the right to form a union without retaliation, McDonald’s chief executive, Don Thompson, defended the company at the annual meeting on Thursday, saying that McDonald’s pays a competitive wage.
But what constitutes “competitive” in the fast-food industry is precisely the problem. Hourly pay averages about $9. The low pay is possible in party because employers rely on taxpayers to subsidize it through public assistance and on non-unionized workforces to swallow it. The competitive fast food wage, in short, is not enough to live on.
Mr. Thompson presumably knows that. But he is paid not to understand what the protestors are demanding because his own pay is based on profits that are derived in part by keeping worker pay low.
Of course, if the political economy were functioning as it is supposed to – with Congress imposing reasonable boundaries on businesses, markets and the economy – workers wouldn’t have to get their bosses to understand what it’s like to live on $9 an hour, because Congress would make sure that no one had to.
The McDonald’s workers are asking for $15 an...