Ignorance is bliss – until you’re out of work
The more I watch this ignorant populist desire to raise the minimum wage (as far as I’m concerned, the minimum wage is $0) to $15 dollars, the more I wonder why people don’t actually think about the issue and its ramifications before staking out a position “for” the hike.
Oh, wait … think. Yeah, never mind. It simply doesn’t happen anymore. And by the way, the thinking one must do isn’t rocket brain surgery. It’s pretty much common sense. So, given the local burger flipper wants $15 bucks an hour to keep flipping those burgers, what is at risk. Well, mostly, his or her job:
Many chains are already at work looking for ingenious ways to take humans out of the picture, threatening workers in an industry that employs 2.4 million wait staffers, nearly 3 million cooks and food preparers and many of the nation’s 3.3 million cashiers.
Of course they are. Why?
“When I first started at McDonald’s making 85 cents an hour, everything we made was by hand,” Rensi said — from cutting the shortcakes to stirring syrups into the milk for shakes. Over the years, though, ingredients started to arrive packaged and pre-mixed, ready to be heated up, bagged and handed out the window.
So what does that mean?
Crowded. That’s how Ed Rensi remembers what life was like working at McDonald’s in 1966. There were about double the number of people working in the store — 70 or 80, as opposed to the 30 or 40 there today — because preparing the food just took a lot more doing.
That’s right, as automation and packaging and pre-mix advanced, fewer workers were needed. It had nothing to do with wages, per se, it had to do with efficiency. What produced the most money for the work involved.
How does one make a profit? Well one way is by being efficient. I.e. producing product at a lower cost than your competition. So how is the fast food business doing in that department? Not so hot.
The market research company IBISWorld has calculated that the average number of employees at fast-food restaurants declined by fewer than two people over the past decade, from 17.16 employees to 15.28. And restaurants tend to rely more on labor than other food outlets: According to the National Restaurant Association, dining establishments average $84,000 in sales per worker, compared with $304,000 for grocery stores and $855,000 for gas stations.
So, raise double the wage and what happens to the already poor efficiency? Right, it goes down.
Then add to that the fact that no manager is going to work for the same wages as his employees. So if management is earning $15 an hour now, what does that have to go to in order to keep good people (it is one of the primary reasons unions back all minimum wage increases – because they get an increase too)? And what does that do to the price of a burger?
It makes it skyrocket.
Given that, what will employers in an already inefficient market likely choose to do? Well right up at the top of the list is a note to reduce staff. And then there’s “introduce efficiencies” to keep costs down.
The labor-saving technology that has so far been rolled out most extensively — kiosk and tablet-based ordering — could be used to replace cashiers and the part of the wait staff’s job that involves taking orders and bringing checks. Olive Garden said earlier this year that it would roll out the Ziosk system at all its restaurants, which means that all a server has to do is bring out the food.
Robots can even help cut down on the need for high-skilled workers such as sushi chefs. A number of high-end restaurants use machines for rolling rice out on sheets of nori, a relatively menial task that takes lots of time. Even though sushi chefs tend to make more than $15 an hour, they could be on the chopping block if servers need to make $15 an hour, too.
A service contract is much less costly than payroll benefits and there’s no sick leave or missed days involved.
As technology advances, even more jobs will be eliminated. Not necessarily because employers want to eliminate them, but because bird-brained idiots want to force them to pay $15 for a $5 job. Who gets hurt? 2.4 million wait staff, 3 million cooks and 3.3 million cashiers. Yes, that’s right, the stupidly conceived push for a $15 minimum wage will jeopardize 8.7 million jobs.
And as we’ve been asking for a long time, what is $15 x 0?