Whenever there is a debate on raising the minimum wage in America to something closer to, say, Australia, a hysterical doomsday prophet comes along and screeches:
“You guys wanna pay $20 for a hamburger at McDonald’s? If you wanna increase it, that’s great, but what you’re gonna do is punish everybody along the way.” [SOURCE]
This is always followed by a chorus of terrified people who believe that they will suddenly have to rob Peter to pay McDonald’s to buy their delicious, artery clogging Big Mac. It’s really pretty sad that we are so addicted to our fast food that the mere suggestion that we may have to pay more for a burger sends us into a tailspin. However, we need not worry that our not so juicy burgers will suddenly skyrocket in price if the people making them are paid a proper minimum wage. Australia’s model has already proven that this scare tactic is just that, a scare tactic.
The Federal minimum wage in America is currently $7.25 an hour. This is a drop in the bucket for large corporations such as McDonald’s but not nearly enough for a family to live off of. McDonald’s of course recognizes this and provided their employees with a helpful example budget earlier this year. Well, gosh darn, how sweet of them! Well, sweet if a family in Buffalo is okay with going without heat in the winter as the budget seems to suggest.
In Australia McDonald’s employees do not have the same problem as they are paid an industry specific minimum wage of $17.03 an hour. That’s right, their minimum wage is double and then some for the same job in the United States.
In Australia, the national minimum wage is $15.51 for adults. Yet only about 2% of Australian workers receive minimum wage in the first place. Most workers receive a wage negotiated by the government on their behalf in industry-wide agreements. Every year an organization called Fair Work Australia sits down and reviews economic conditions and sets the minimum wage. So in 2013, that group set the minimum wage for fast food employees at $17.03 an hour. That means it is entirely likely that their pay will be raised next year, as well.
So what’s life like for minimum wage workers in Australia?
The average adult (21 and over) McDonald’s employee makes $2781.64 a month in Australia, that is $33,379.68 a year. In the US the pay is, shall we say, significantly lower. Nick Williams, one of the thousands of striking fast-food employees, told Business Insider that he takes home on average $800 a month. Or a whopping $9,600 a year. By the way, in the land down under anyone who makes less than $18,200 is not subject to taxes. Sounds like slavery, doesn’t it?
Not only do employees of fast food restaurants make way more money there than they do here, they have more benefits guaranteed to them by their government. Just for fun, I’ve included how much these benefits are roughly worth:
- Health insurance ($3,760 per capita. It’s universal there, the horror!)
- Four weeks paid leave per year ($2781.64)
- Ten or more paid holidays (roughly $1390.00)
- Up to ten days paid leave for jury duty (roughly $1390.00)
- At least 38 hours a week (Priceless)
- Ten sick days (roughly $1390.00)
That’s right full-time employees are guaranteed those benefits, can you imagine? They receive roughly $6952.00 in paid time off every year, that’s almost as much as Nick’s entire annual salary!
Nick Williams is not so lucky, he doesn’t even receive benefits from his McDonald’s job:
While his job is nearly full-time, Williams, 28, says his schedule is always capped off at 38 or 39 hours per week, making him ineligible for insurance benefits.
Nearly full-time, it’s not full-time because his employer caps his hours before he reaches that point so that they will not have to contribute to his health insurance plan. Lovely, isn’t it? McDonald’s employees in the US are not paid for sick days. If they are sick they either lose that money or they go to work. If your average monthly income is $800, staying home is not really an option. That means that at some point we’ve probably all had an ill person preparing our food at one of these restaurants. Ewww. If they are not paid sick days it is safe to assume they are not given four weeks paid vacation, either. Instead they can ‘earn’ paid holidays and vacation. Their vacation and holiday pay depends on how long they have been with the company, it is not a guarantee as it is in Australia.
OK, but what about part-time workers?
Surely fast food part-time workers get paid less and would not be entitled to the same benefits, right?
Part-time workers, or casual workers, receive a higher rate of pay than their full-time counterpart, in Australia. Yeah, you read that correctly: they get paid MORE. They are required to be paid the same hourly wage as a full-time employee plus 15-25% on top of that. They also receive insurance, parental leave, and cannot be unfairly terminated. So while they do not receive the same benefits as a full-time worker, they are not left with slave wages either.
In America, if somebody finds a job with benefits even close to this they hold on to that job until their dying breath. This allows corporations to squeeze productivity out of their workers and keep all of the increased earnings. Still, a job with sick leave and health insurance? That’s like hitting the job jackpot in the United States and you damn sure wouldn’t find a job like that working for McDonald’s. No way. No how.
I’m sure someone will say that the cost of living is higher over there and that’s why they get paid more and they’d be right. It is higher in Australia. But chew on this: the cost of living in Australia is about 33% higher than the cost of living in the United States. Yet, their minimum wage, which we already know most workers make more than, is more than double what it is here. And, of course, they receive numerous benefits our workers do not.
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services the poverty threshold for a single person is $11,490. That means that Nick Williams is living almost $2,000 below the poverty level. Unlike in Australia, his full time pay does not meet or exceed the cost of living. Not even close.
But Australia is SUPER expensive!
So that must mean the people of Australia are paying an astronomical amount for their Big Macs, right?
A Big Mac in Australia costs on average $4.94 in America the average is $4.20. Hungry Jack’s, owned by Burger King in Australia, and offers their signature burger for $4.95. So it seems that Australians do not pay anywhere near $20 for burgers even though their minimum wage is double what it is in the United States. So whiule the cost of living in Australia is higher. This has yet to translate into the mythical $15 or $20 McDonald’s hamburger that conservatives are so afraid of.
Furthermore,McDonald’s is quite profitable in Australia. There are over 750 locations, burgers do not cost $20 and Australian employees are treated magnificently. They receive all of those benefits and a fantastic hourly wage and it isn’t causing the company to go under. So why aren’t they raising the minimum wage for workers over here if that is the case? Simple: they don’t have to.
They don’t have to, so they don’t. It really is that simple, they could, but the government in the
Corporate United States of America does not force them to pay their employees a living wage. Instead, McDonald’s give out phony budget sheets to employees that forget that people have to pay for heat. That’s how business is done here. Screw employees and cater to corporate a**holes. In this country the right-wing has absolutely no problem subsidizing the rich but God forbid they do something to help the poor.
So the next time you hear someone say, “Uh, well gosh Billy Bob, I’d really like to raise the minimum wage but I don’t want to spend $20 for my Big Mac!” Take a deep breath, resist the urge to slap them and explain how Australia does Mickey D’s.