Always Low Wages, Always

Not your average Walmart employee
DEAR WALMART, MCDONALD'S AND STARBUCKS: How Do You Feel About Paying Your Employees So Little That Most Of Them Are Poor?

What do you call a trio of companies that made $35 billion in profits last year and yet the majority of their employees make $12 an hour or less? Shrewd? Cheap? Exploitative? Despicable?

The reality is that Walmart, McDonald's and Starbucks can pay more and it would actually probably cost them less to do so. Better paid employees stay longer, work harder and spend more of their money at their place of work.

But why do they pay such crappy wages to begin with?

The consensus about these low-wage service jobs is that they're low-wage because they're low-skilled. 
But that's not actually true. They're low-wage because companies choose to make them low-wage. 
No, you say. Low-wage service jobs are low-wage because they're low-skilled. It's a free market. Companies should pay their employees whatever the market will bear. If those low-skilled, low-wage workers had any gumption, they'd go get themselves skilled and then then they'd be able to get high-paying, high-skill jobs. Employers shouldn't have to pay employees one cent more than the market will bear. This argument overlooks three things:   
First, all those good-paying manufacturing jobs that the U.S. has lost weren't always good-paying. In fact, before unions, minimum-wage laws, and some enlightened thinking from business owners (see below), they often paid terribly. 
Second, the manufacturing jobs also weren't high- or even medium-skilled. In fact, most of these manufacturing jobs required no more inherent skill than the skills required to be a cashier at Walmart, a fry cook at McDonald's, or a barista at Starbucks. (Yes, people who work on assembly lines building complex products need training. But cashiers, fry cooks, and baristas need training, too. Don't believe this? Go volunteer to be a Walmart cashier or a Starbucks barista for a day. ) 
Third, it is often in companies' interest—as well as the economy's interest—to pay employees more than the market will bear. For one thing, you tend to get better employees. For two, they tend to be more loyal and dedicated. For three, they have more money to spend, some of which might be spent on your products.
I don't expect monstrous corporations to do right by the people working for them unless they are forced to do so. And it's time to force these massive corporations to pay their employees livable wages, it isn't like they can't afford to and those massive profits (at least in Walmart's case) aren't doing anyone any good sitting in the Walton family reserves (the Walton's have donated a pathetically paltry 2% of their income to charity compare that to Bill Gates at 48% and Warren Buffett's 78%).
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