While the fight for a $15-dollar minimum wage has continued to gain support from Democratic lawmakers and presidential candidates in recent weeks, fast-food execs aren’t thrilled with the prospect of raising wages—and not necessarily for the reason you might think.
In a column for Forbes on Monday, Ed Rensi, the former president and chief executive officer of McDonald’s USA, wrote that raising the minimum wage for fast food workers would mean "wiping out thousands of entry-level opportunities for people without many other options." Rensi argues that the burden of increasing an employee's earnings will fall largely on independently-owned franchisees and lead to the adoption of cheap, self-service kiosks over actual living, breathing cashiers. McDonald's began introducing self-service kiosks last summer as part of its new "Create Your Taste" platform, and in August Business Insider speculated that the initiative might have been sparked by fears over rising labor costs.
“The $15 minimum wage demand, which translates to $30,000 a year for a full-time employee, is built upon a fundamental misunderstanding of a restaurant business such as McDonald’s,” Rensi, who led the company’s U.S. operations for roughly 13 years, writes in his piece. “Ironically, today’s minimum wage mandate for higher pay will be condemning young adults to lower-paid and less-successful futures."
Rensi also accuses labor organizers of being less concerned with the well-being of fast-food workers, and more intent on lining their own pockets with membership dues.
“You’ll see their legacy every time you visit the Golden Arches, where ‘would you like fries with that’ is a button on a computer screen rather than a phrase spoken by an employee in their first job," he writes.
Still, supporters of the wage increase argue that anything less than $15 per hour will soon be too little to live on in America. By 2021, the year New York’s proposed wage increase would go into effect, supporting a family on the current state minimum of $9 per hour would be an almost impossible task.
“[P]eople in New York’s poorest counties required nearly $10 an hour in 2014 to meet basic living costs. To cover the costs for one adult and one child took at least $22 an hour,” The New York Times’ editorial board wrote in March. “To argue against a $15 minimum wage in 2021 is to argue for poverty-level wages."
Senator Bernie Sanders recently reaffirmed his support for a $15 minimum wage on Twitter, scolding McDonald's in the process: