Fast food workers protest too much

In the latest in a series of minimum wage protests in recent years, fast food workers staged a one-day strike last week, and tens of thousands of workers and their supporters rallied in hundreds of U.S. cities to demand a $15-an-hour minimum wage. The protests were organized by a group called Fight for $15, backed by the Service Employees International Union, which hopes to unionize fast food workers and add potentially several million members — and their requisite dues — at a time when union membership rates have fallen by almost half the past 30 years.

While such a wage increase would benefit some, others would be laid off, not hired in the first place or see their hours cut, as employers — particularly those in low-margin industries such as restaurants and retail — do not simply have unlimited pools of money sitting around and must adjust accordingly to increases in their labor costs. Some establishments may cut their operating hours or close altogether, resulting in even fewer jobs.

Consider Australia, home of the highest national minimum wage in the developed world, which currently starts at $12.31 (U.S.) an hour. In 2009, Australia implemented a system of 122 workplace agreements that set entitlement rules and wage rates, including double wages for Sunday shifts in some service industries, for example. Now, even trainee waiters command a minimum $18.46 an hour, and shop workers may make as much as $33.07 an hour. As a result, many shops and restaurants are closed on Sundays.

A Bloomberg story recently profiled an award-winning chef who “would have no trouble filling his Canberra restaurant,” voted the best restaurant in the city for three years, but cannot financially justify keeping the restaurant open Sundays due to the regulations. “Tourists come here, and they complain that nothing is open on a Sunday,” he said. “It’s a bad look.”

Expect the same kind of reduced hours and operations — not to mention lost jobs — in California and across the country where union-backed activists are successful in foisting arbitrary increases in labor costs on business owners and basing wages on political power rather than the value a worker actually produces.

Reprinted from The Orange County Register

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