According to Thomas McCraw, who is the author of American Business, 1920-2000: How it Worked, “More people in the U.S. workforce were getting their first job at McDonald’s than at any other employer, including the Army.” By the end of this 80 year period, McDonald’s employer turn over rate was just over 200 percent per year. It was a temporary job, primarily for students.
This factor has changed somewhat. I remember in an ethics class in seminary we had to watch a documentary titled Fast Food Women. The film about workers in Eastern Kentucky projected an angle that the viewer should feel sorry for the workers who were forced to toil at their jobs. Many of the women were working there to help out their families because jobs in the coal mines, which paid substantially more, and were worked by men, were not as readily as available as in the past. While the video portrayed somber music and footage, many of the women on camera said positive things about their jobs and the opportunity it afforded them.
The Wall Street Journal and The Wire both offer excellent write ups on the union led political agitating going on now with the fast food worker strike. See also Anthony Bradley’s Acton commentary “On Wages, McDonald’s Gets it Right.”
Particularly noteworthy in the write up by The Wire are the comments by restaurant owner Ron Piazza. His owns one of the oldest McDonald’s in the country, and the only remaining restaurant before Ray Kroc assumed ownership of the franchise in 1961. Kroc pioneered the franchise model for McDonald’s that made it a household name. Piazza makes some great points in the piece. Here’s one of his points on the minimum wage:
I started at a dollar an hour. Poverty is as severe as it was when I was making a dollar an hour. The minimum wage increase, frankly, hasn’t reduced our poverty problem.
Do I think it’s fair that people live in poverty? Of course not. But I don’t know how you can say that business is responsible for that.
Throughout the piece he offers a lot of great comments, stressing the opportunities McDonald’s offers to workers to move past a minimum wage. He delivers a lot of wisdom too often forgotten within our entitlement culture.
Last night I watched the SEC network presentation on Chucky Mullins and Brad Gaines, two former college football opponents who are forever linked because of one brutal hit in October of 1989. It was a powerful and emotional film dealing with the topic of suffering, courage, and faith. Mullins, an Ole Miss defensive back, was paralyzed from the neck down during the game and died two years later from his devastating injury. I won’t go into the entirety of the story of Chucky Mullins, but would encourage readers to learn it on their own or watch the film.
But one thing that always stuck out to me about Chucky Mullins, and I’ve read the excellent book Dixie Farewell by Larry Woody, and that is he came from absolutely nothing and was determined to make something of himself. He essentially begged his way into a football scholarship at Ole Miss and showed up to school with everything he owned in a little duffel bag. A teammate had to buy him sheets for his bed. But Mullins was one of the most determined and motivated people you could ever learn about. We don’t hear enough about people like that today. And we need more people like that. Agitating for something undeserved is easy, but determination, hard work, and persistence offers real recognition.