For the past week, labor groups have been publicizing a new study that finds the federal government spends roughly $7 billion a year on benefits like food stamps and Medicaid for fast-food workers. Taxpayers, they say, are subsidizing the industry's profits.
In other words, Burger King is a Welfare Queen.
Now, activists have followed up with a nifty little PR stunt in the form of the video above. It's an edited recording* of a staffer on the McDonald's employee helpline explaining to a restaurant crew worker how they can sign up for food stamps, among other government benefits.
"McDonald's doesn't want to pay its workers more," the clip concludes. "Instead, it wants you to pay its workers more."
Just as there's nothing technically wrong with McDonald's telling workers they'll probably need a second job, there's also nothing technically wrong with fast-food companies explaining how to get federal benefits. And yet, here we have a terrifically profitable international corporation refusing to raise wages while acknowledging that it pays too little for its workers to comfortably survive.
And videos like this one aren't going to change its attitude. There too many incentives for fast food chains, and especially individual franchise owners, not to up what they pay. McDonald's, Dominos, Taco Bell and their ilk compete on rock bottom prices. It's a hot, greasy war fought with $5.99 two-topping pizzas, $1 beefy burritos and $5, 20-piece McNuggets. The battle to keep meals cheap is so fierce that McDonald's was willing to spend years fighting its own franchisees over its dollar menu—a one-buck double cheeseburger was worth a measly 6 cents profit at some stores—until finally giving some ground this week. And while McDonald's has proven it's capable of making a profit abroad while paying workers $15 an hour or more, in the end, the recipe for success usually includes higher prices. Fast food restaurants in the U.S. aren't going to risk emulating it and losing customers to the competition.