The Last Fast Food Worker in California

Who will be the last fast food worker in California?

Yesterday, California passed a new law dramatically raising fast food wages.

It sounds like a victory for the working class. But it’s likely to put them out of a job. 

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From Bloomberg:

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the fast food recovery act into law, giving restaurant-chain employees more input over wages and working conditions even after strong protests from the industry.

A study by Harvard Kennedy School and UC San Francisco showed that wages for California’s fast-food workers hover around $16.21 an hour, or 85 cents on the dollar compared with other service sector workers in the state. AB 257 could raise wages as high as $22 an hour next year for chains with 100 or more locations across the US. It’s the first US law of its kind, leading the way for other states.

Let’s see how this will play out at a restaurant. And where better than the oldest McDonald’s in America, in Downey, California?

In business since 1953, the Downey McDonald’s is one of the area’s biggest tourist attractions. And it still serves Big Macs and fries, 7 days a week.

The Downey McDonald’s is open from 6am to 10pm every day. That’s 112 hours a week.

McDonald’s employees in Downey actually do a little better than that $15 minimum wage. They average $16.41 per hour.

Increasing that to $22 means every employee-hour costs $5.59 more. Staffing the restaurant for those 112 hours now costs $128,000 per person per year, instead of $96,000.

Instead of paying that, restaurant owners may hire Flippy

Flippy is a robot from Miso Robotics that runs an entire fry station. It can make french fries, onion rings, and even chicken tenders.

It costs about $36,000 a year. And unlike humans, it never comes in late, gets sick, or tries to unionize.

Flippy can’t do all the jobs in a McDonald’s — yet. But in combination with order kiosks and automated drive through lanes, there may soon be few fast food jobs left. 

Is all this fair? I don’t know. 

But it’s going to happen. And blunt instruments like this law only bring our robot future closer. 

Instead, politicians like Gavin Newsom should focus on helping working class people get more skills. This is a durable path to better wages and a better life.

I hope for a future where humans do stimulating, meaningful work. Let Flippy handle the rest.

What do you think of the California law? Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know!

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