Value Your Employees With or Without Minimum Wage Laws

January 13, 2017

It's not just the employees that will appreciate better work conditions, your shoppers will too. 

Fast food workers (and supermarket employees as well) have proven they are not afraid to protest or strike for better pay and benefits. And as a result of the President-elect’s choice for U.S. Labor Secretary, the “Fight for $15” movement was reported yesterday protesting the confirmation of Andrew Pudzer, head of CKE Restaurants Inc. In the past, Pudzer has made it clear he does not support raising the minimum wage to $15/hour.

What is so interesting right now about these circumstances is that for one seeking employment in the fast food industry, it appears to be good time to negotiate a better package, even without government involvement. 

In our latest election, four states voted to raise the minimum wage: Washington, Arizona, Colorado and Maine - a huge victory for people in these types of jobs. However, restaurants are reporting that attracting and maintaing staff is currently more challenging than it’s ever been. And as a result, these restaurants are offering referral bonuses, vacation pay, and higher wages. And it’s not just fast food restaurants finding themselves forced to make better offers to potential employees. Bloomberg reported this week that “Wal-Mart Stores Inc. last year raised wages of more than a million employees to either at least $10 an hour or by 2 percent for those making more.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 4,731,800 jobs in 2014 in food and beverage serving and related workers. The 2015 median pay was $19,040 per year and $9.16 per hour. That’s a difficult salary to imagine being enough to cover the cost of living. For 2016, the federal poverty line for an individual was $11,880, $16,020 for a family of two, and $20,160 for a family of three. 

But within all of these debates over whether the government should raise the minimum wage, there’s an important lesson for the food industry, restaurants and retailers. 

McDonald’s recently ran an ad campaign with the mission of showing their commitment to being America’s best first job. The scene is a slightly nervous young man on a day off, walking into the McDonald’s where he works, holding an envelope. He approaches his manager who he clearly has a great relationship with, hands him the envelope, and the manager proceeds to gather around the entire staff to read the letter aloud - a letter that reveals he has been accepted for a tuition assistance program through McDonald’s. The staff cheers for him, and the viewer’s heart melts. 

The message of this campaign is simple. McDonald’s wants its customers to know that they provide a great place to work. And in today’s environment, shoppers truly care about fair practices within the businesses they support. 

The bottom line here is that valuing your customers will go a long with your shoppers and create a more productive, ethical and loyal staff. Raising hourly wages is one way, but career development, college assistance opportunities, bonuses, discounts on purchases, and paid days off are all other ways to show your employees appreciation for their hard work. Anyone who has ever shopped at Trader Joe’s knows that it would be unusual to encounter a disgruntled employee.