McDonald’s workers are going on strike because they feel their pay is too low.

“They’re not paying us enough to survive,” 21-year-old McDonald’s worker Raymond Lopez tells Salon. “This company has enough money to pay us a reasonable amount for all that we do … they’re just not going to give it to us as long as they can get away with it.”

Strikers are hoping to unionize and get wages raised to $15 an hour.

Lopez, who says he makes $8.75 an hour as a shift manager, also complained about “verbal abuse” and having to work off the clock “all of the time.”

Mr. Lopez thinks that his wages should be nearly doubled. I would ask him two questions:

1. Is there a scarcity of labor in the market that would make it hard to replace your job at $8.75 an hour?

2. Is there not another employer who would hire you at the wage you believe you deserve? If so, why don’t you work for them?

Lately there is a strong push for corporations to pay a “livable wage.” The problem is that what’s a livable wage for survival is not the same as a livable wage for an American who wants the accouterments of a first world lifestyle.


Is it the moral duty of McDonald’s to provide a higher wage than the market supports so that Mr. Lopez can purchase the latest smartphone with a 4G data package? Should unskilled workers be able to afford internet, cars, nights out at the club, Chipotle, and so on? Is it fair to deny them these purchases by letting the market decide compensation during times like this when labor is in surplus?

If McDonald’s provided all it’s workers with $15/hour jobs, their profits would decrease. Shareholders will not accept decreasing growth, so McDonald’s will have to raise their price of food to maintain profits and their share price. This means that Mr. Lopez will be funded not by capitalist money but by McDonald’s customers, who now have to pay higher prices. If customers choose not to pay higher prices, the business will collapse and Mr. Lopez, along with many of his peers, will be out of a job.

The “livable wage” movement doesn’t hurt employers—it hurts customers. It results in increasing prices in order to pay labor more than their market value. If you support a “livable wage,” then you support decreasing purchasing power of not only your income, but everyone else’s. Instead of livable wage proponents forcing us to pay higher prices for McDonald’s hamburgers, how about they donate their income directly to Mr. Lopez or other charities instead? I doubt you’ll find anyone in opposition to that.

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