I know someone who works at McDonald’s in New York state. This person makes $9.50/hour and got a grand total of four hours last week.
Clearly, that’s hardly worth the trouble. But this person’s experience didn’t surprise me. While I don’t generally agree that things are as simple as the Right would have you believe when it comes to raising wages for low-paying jobs, what I would say is that marching down the street with placards that read “fight for $15” is more likely to lead to this…
… than it is to this…
(incidentally, look at the third guy from the left – he’s looking around like, “what the hell are we doing?”)
Don’t believe me? Well, consider the following from Illinois Policy:
As the Fight for $15 campaign, led by the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, protested for higher wages again Nov. 29, McDonald’s continued to unveil self-service kiosks throughout the country to counteract costly wage mandates.
McDonald’s announced Nov. 17 it was expanding its digital self-serve ordering stations to all of its 14,000 restaurants nationwide. This new automation is something a McDonald’s location in Chicago’s Loop has been testing for months.
Now that might sound like bad news for carbon-based employees, but to let CEO Steve Easterbrook tell it, the “rise of the machines” isn’t a Skynet-style threat to jobs. “We’ve not cutting crew; we’re redeploying them,” Easterbrook said, at an event last month.
I see. And so can you, in the video embedded at the end of this piece. What it looks like from my end is that employees who once took customer orders will now simply wander around aimlessly between the kiosks that replaced them. How long do you think it will be before these “wanderers” are phased out?
That leads us to a bigger question: what happens when starter jobs disappear completely in America as technology continues to make the lowest-paid positions obsolete? Here with his take is former FX trader and Bloomberg contributor Mark Cudmore:
A universal basic income may have a whiff of Communism about it, but it’s increasingly vital to safeguard capitalism. The idea is very likely to be a key pillar of any future economy, as automation keeps eating into the job market.
- This week Fed Chair Janet Yellen said the U.S. labor market was the strongest in almost a decade. Maybe that’s the case for the university students she was speaking to, but she failed to adequately address the tremendous adverse impact technology will have on the jobs market
- Truck drivers, taxi drivers and cashiers are just some of the many jobs that will largely vanish in coming decades. And they’re some of the most common, and accessible, jobs in the economy
- This is already a global theme. Technology is improving the average standard of living all the time, but it’s also steadily eroding the need for labor not just in the production process but also in the delivery of services
- Never mind any ethics or political beliefs, there needs to be a solution to avert riots and civil strife. As governments adjust to the concept that much of their population never has a realistic hope for traditional employment, then means-testing and other qualification methods for social benefits become both inefficient and more controversial
- A universal basic income, a regular unconditional sum of money, for all citizens is the obvious answer. The sooner we realize this is the future, the better. It’ll counter the rise of populist politics and facilitate intelligent long- term economic planning
- Small-scale experiments in such policy are being conducted in countries from Finland to Canada. It’s time for policy makers and economists to start factoring this in to their future models
- I’m an optimist who fully believes that the robot-dominated future will see a much higher standard of living than today. But whether or not you agree, don’t remain in denial of how profound the technological revolution will be and the resultant shift in economic policy that’s required
There you have it – our future in seven bullet points.