News You Really Need To See: “Serving Up Fries, for a Living Wage”

“Serving Up Fries, for a Living Wage”

The New York Times, October 28, 2014, p.B1

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/28/business/international/living-wages-served-in-denmark-fast-food-restaurants.html

“On a recent afternoon, Hampus Elofsson ended his 40-hour workweek at a Burger King and prepared for a movie and beer with friends.  He had paid his rent and all his bills, stashed away some savings, yet still had money for nights out.  That is because he earns the equivalent of $20 an hour — the base wage for fast-food workers throughout Denmark and two and a half times what many fast-food workers earn in the United States. … Denmark has no minimum-wage law.  But Mr. Elofsson’s $20 an hour is the lowest the fast-food industry can pay under an agreement between Denmark’s 3F union, the nation’s largest, and the Danish employers group Horesta, which includes Burger King, McDonald’s, Starbucks and other restaurant and hotel companies.  By contrast, fast-food wages in the United States are so low that half of the nation’s fast-food workers rely on some form of public assistance, a study from the University of California, Berkeley found. … In Denmark, fast-food workers are guaranteed benefits their American counterparts could only dream of.  Under the industry’s collective agreement, there are five weeks’ paid vacation, paid maternity and paternity leave and a pension plan.  Workers must be paid overtime for working after 6 p.m. and on Sundays.  Unlike most American fast-food workers, the Danes often get their work schedules four weeks in advance, and employees cannot be sent home early without pay just because business slows.”

Quickie Analysis:  Ironically, opponents of the Danish model point to Denmark’s social safety net and employee-employer bargaining arrangements as reasons why Denmark is “too different” from the US to consider Denmark’s experience relevant to the US.  Yes, the fast food outlets operating in Denmark are less profitable, but they’re not unprofitable.  And as any business owner can tell you, there’s a huge difference between “less profitable” and “unprofitable.”

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