On the campaign trail in 1992, Bill Clinton famously stopped by a McDonald’s during a jog. Impromptu or not, it helped cement Clinton’s image as a regular guy who understands budget-minded middle-class families.
Fast forward 27 years, and Democrats are once again making campaign stops at McDonald’s. But not to eat there. No, no, no.
They are showing up to protest the fast-food chain for “corporate greed” and for not paying its workers a “living wage.”
Kamala Harris, for example, was in Las Vegas marching in a protest and telling those assembled that “if we want to talk about these golden arches being a symbol of the best of America, well the arches are falling short.”
This is not your Bubba’s party any more.
Of course, the Democrats’ beef with McDonald’s is that, in the mind of Democrats who’ve never run a business or had to meet a payroll, McDonald’s doesn’t pay its workers enough. At the very least, it makes a splash that gets them in the local papers in their endless push to appease Big Union and campaign for a doubling of the federal minimum wage to $15.
But while Democrats are busy protesting outside McDonald’s, the company is busy testing new technologies that will make it easier for it to get rid of more workers, should Democrats get their minimum-wage hike.
The company is testing voice-recognition software at a drive-through outside Chicago, according to the Wall Street Journal. Inside the restaurant is a robot fry cook, tossing chicken, fries, and fish into boiling oil.
Officials say McDonald’s will be testing these new technologies at more restaurants. And it won’t be alone. Others are pursuing labor-saving technologies. Last year a CaliBurger restaurant in Pasadena started using a burger-flipping robot.
Of course, some forms of automation are inevitable, particularly for rote restaurant tasks done by humans. McDonald’s has, for example, been putting self-service touch-screen kiosks in many of its restaurants for years, which means fewer workers manning registers. Forcing labor costs up will only accelerate the trend.
This isn’t some new revelation. Five years ago, the Washington Post ran a story about how restaurant chains were “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.”
“Burger-flipping robots,” it explained, “become that much more cost-competitive if the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is doubled.”
Beyond technology, restaurants can simply cut workers’ hours, reduce the number of people they employ, or shut down. Researchers who looked at Seattle’s recent minimum-wage hike found it caused average weekly earnings for minimum-wage workers to decline. And in the middle of the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years, there’s a jobs recession among restaurant workers in New York City after it imposed a $15 minimum.
If Democrats want to recapture working-class voters, they would do better to sit down to a meal inside a McDonald’s rather than stand outside protesting it.
— Written by John Merline
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