mcdonaldsautomated

You’ve seen this one, right?  It’s been making the rounds on Facebook and other social media sites recently.  The message is, of course, that demanding an increase in the minimum wage will cause employers to switch to automated systems, and cause our minimum-wage workforce of teenagers working after school to simply dry up.  Of course, what they don’t tell you are two very relevant facts:  most minimum wage workers are adults, and automation has been taking jobs since the beginning of the industrial revolution.

gasstation1950s

Many of you might not be old enough to remember this, but I do.  Nobody pumped their own gas, it was done by one or more employees of the full-service gasoline stations that dotted the American landscape.  Someone would pump the gas, check the air pressure in your tires, wash your windows, and check the oil.  Often merchandising incentives from trading stamps to glassware, toys for the kids, and other useful or fun items would be offered for fill-ups (when expensive gas was 30 cents a gallon!).  Today, almost no gas retail establishment provides those services, and the self-service pump is ubiquitous.

gaspumpcardreader

gasstationmodern

“Service stations” are almost extinct, with most gas pumps part of a mini-market.  Want your oil checked?  Pop the hood and do it yourself.  Need air in your tires?  The pump, 5 quarters please, is located on the side of the building.  Those nice men in crisp clean uniforms who used to run out to greet you?  They’re retired now, and although you can have some interaction at the pumps, it’s usually a video screen showing you a commercial.

Will McDonald’s, and by extension every business that hires at minimum wage, go automated to cut labor costs?  Sure they will.  But businesses up and down the pay scales were going to do that already, and have been at it for a very long time.

autoassemblyman

Yesterday

autoassemblyrobot

Today

carhop

Yesterday

cars-in-line-drive-thru

Today

Leaving the minimum wage where it is won’t change the inevitable march towards fewer employees, although it might slow it down a bit.  Raising the minimum wage will help those that do work, and will have the benefit of giving the economy a shot in the arm, since most people working at that pay level spend most of their money to get by.  More money for them means more economic activity.  What might not show the steady improvement of the past is the Cayman Island and Swiss bank accounts of the CEOs, who have been doing quite well, even during the deepest lows of the last recession.

Do you know what your boss is saying when he pays you minimum wage?  “I’d pay you less, but the government won’t let me.”

No, a $15 minimum wage won’t destroy America as we know it.  The fat cats have been doing that for a long time, and will continue as long as we let them.

Advertisements