“You can make a decent living here working in fast food. You don’t have to struggle to get by.” This eye-opening statement appeared in a New York Times article contrasting the working lives of two men: Hampus Elofsson, who works at a McDonald’s in Denmark; and Anthony Moore, a shift manager at a Burger King near Tampa, Fla.
Moore earns $9 an hour, and like half of American fast-food workers, he is on public assistance to support himself and his two young daughters. “Do I buy food or do I buy them clothes?” Moore asks. He goes to work sick because he cannot afford Burger King’s insurance. “If I made $20 an hour, I could actually live, instead of dreaming about living.”
By contrast, McDonald’s is somehow able to pay Elofsson the equivalent of $20 an hour, as well as five weeks of vacation time, paid maternity and paternity leave, and a pension plan — and still make a profit.
To fully explore the differences between the two cases would be beyond the scope of this letter, but I’ll mention two key background points.
First, although Denmark has no minimum wage law, McDonald’s must negotiate with the labor union that all fast-food workers belong to. The corporation’s vast power is importantly offset by the united brotherhood of workers. In America, less friendly to workers, corporations like McDonald’s hide behind various franchise arrangements that allow them to wash their hands of workers’ misery.
And second, Denmark has in effect decided that the nation will refuse to accept the vast gulfs of wealth taken for granted in America. Not a law of nature: A political choice.
It is no surprise that almost half of the $176 million given to presidential candidates for the 2016 election have come from only 158 families, mostly fracking and hedge-fund types. Do we want government for this 1%?
D.W. St. John
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