Burgers and Lies

By Bill Maher

America’s rich corporate pricks insist that if we raise the minimum wage, they’ll just have to start laying off employees and swelling the unemployment rolls, because, God forbid, they have to shave a nickel off their annual profits or see their stock price dip by a tenth of a percentage point.

This is such a bluff. The fact is these businesses have the bare minimum of employees on hand now. If any given Wal-Mart or Office Depot sent three workers home to save on payroll, there’d be no one left to mind the store.

Former McDonald’s CEO Ed Rensi recently went on a screed explaining how we don’t get it. He says the individual McDonald’s franchises only profit about $156,000 a year and if they have to pay their employees more, they’ll just switch to an automated, self-serve system and fire staff.  

Bullshit. If McDonald’s could switch to an automated, self-serve system to save a buck and still keep customers, they’d have done that already. But it’s hard to reconcile “You deserve a break today” with “Make it yourself.”

McDonald’s and so many other companies say it’s out of their corporate hands – it’s up to the individual franchises to determine wages. Again, bullshit. McDonald’s franchises only make, according to Rensi, “roughly six cents on the dollar,” but part of the reason their profits are so slim is they have to pay (along with all their other overhead) corporate a 12 percent royalty on all they make. McDonald’s could lower this royalty fee, which, yes, would cut into their $25-billion-per-year profits but it would cover the cost of giving their loyal employees a living wage.

And why shouldn’t they pay? When their employees have to go on food stamps or live in subsidized housing or receive Medicaid, that’s my tax dollars making up for McDonalds’ greedy shortfall. Pay your help so I don’t have to!

One more thing. Rensi started out at McDonald’s as a minimum-wage “grill man” in 1966. I did some math. The current Federal Minimum Wage is $7.25/hr. In 1966 the minimum wage was $1.25/hr. But adjusted for inflation, that’d be $9.23/hr today. Doesn’t a 34-year-old single mom deserve at least as much as Ed Rensi got at 17?