David R. Henderson  

The Humanity of McDonald's

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If a government agency were as effective, Hilary and Bernie would never let us hear the end of it.

Here's a story that John Strong told on Facebook this morning (reproduced with his permission, along with some slight edits):

I stayed in an Airbnb managed by a lady who had a son with a learning difficulty and she told me about her struggle to get him to leave home and get a job after he graduated from high school. He was completely passive and quite content to live at home with mom, doing nothing much, so eventually she had to put her foot down and threaten to kick him out unless he could "shake hands with at least 3 hiring managers per week." She even chauffered him around to job interviews and claims that she had a revelation on the way to one of the interviews, because she looked over at her son, a huge guy who had excelled at football and not much of anything else, and noticed that he was trembling with fear. She said that in that moment she realized for the first time how big a part fear had played in her son's dysfunction. Who finally hired this young man? McDonald's. And according to my landlady "McDonald's saved him." Why? Oh, they're unbelievable, she said. They are very used to dealing with people like my son. They have all kinds of systems for helping people who lack good work habits become productive. For instance, they start calling you hours before your morning shift to ensure that you are awake and getting ready for work. My son really needed that, she said. In McDonalds he learned that work guidelines have a purpose and he acquired confidence. He is no longer passive now. He has a much better job, a fiancee, and a future.

I'll put in my words the essence of the question that John Strong asked after telling this story: do we really want to put such jobs and such character building at risk by raising the minimum wage?


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COMMENTS (9 to date)
Levi Russell writes:

It is so important to tell these stories, especially in discussions of the ethics of the minimum wage. I'm personally familiar with a story of a person with a developmental disorder who benefits tremendously from work in a fast food establishment. These managers and franchise owners are heroes.

Michael R Stack writes:

Wow, that's impressive. I've worked in the low-wage service industry before, and employee reliability is a huge issue (scheduling is another). Calling employees hours before their shifts start is a really great idea.

Jon Murphy writes:

This is a beautiful story, and the question you ask at the end is so important, yet often overlooked.

Greg G writes:

Yup. I hired entry level retail sales employees for 35 years. We always found great people but we had to wade through a lot of hopelessly bad applicants to do it. I mean many people simply lacking the common sense and work ethic to do the job. I wouldn't have let most applicants near my customers if they had been volunteers. Most desperately needed experience with the concept of holding a job at all.

Half of the people that scheduled interviews simply never showed up. Half of the rest did not know enough to show up on time for the interview, dressed appropriately, look me in the eye, and shake my hand. Those interviews were effectively over before their butts hit the chair. I gave them courtesy interviews anyway because they had taken the trouble to come to the appointment and they obviously needed the interview experience.

We always paid well above the minimum wage but a doubling of it would have quickly put me out of business. My employees were very loyal and hardworking and they really valued their jobs. They still insist on getting together three times a year for reunions eight years after I closed that business.

Over the years, many former employees took the skills they learned from their first job with us and got better jobs. Others were very happy where they were and stayed with us a long time. Both were great results.

Emily writes:

I agree with the last paragraph but not so much the first. There are people who tell similar stories about the military and I don't think either Bernie or Hillary talk those aspects up. (We could certainly argue the military is not as effective, either because we spend a lot more money on it or because their admissions standards tend to be higher, but that's not why.)

David R. Henderson writes:

@Emily,
I agree with the last paragraph but not so much the first. There are people who tell similar stories about the military and I don't think either Bernie or Hillary talk those aspects up.
God point, Emily. When I was writing it, there was this little voice in my head saying, “Yeah, what about the Marines?” Or the Navy for that matter. The daughter of a friend of mine got off drugs when she joined the Navy.

CougarNation writes:

I've often noticed developmentally disabled folks working at McDonald's and other fast food places. I've loved the fact that these companies make such work opportunities possible. I was unaware of the extra-mile steps they take to help ensure these peoples' success. That's fantastic.

Joe writes:

The admission standards of the military are higher than Mcdonalds, but way lower than they appear on paper.

There is an unspoken agreement that you just don't mention your learning disabilities (or whatever) on your paperwork, and even though the military COULD check and get your medical history they wont, generally speaking. Not to mention the fact that many enlisted people come from fairly low income backgrounds, and can't afford the tests that pick up the ̶b̶u̶l̶l̶s̶h̶i̶t̶ very mild disabilities.

At least it was that way six years ago, when I applied, and was rejected at MEPS because it was early in the morning and I forgot to lie about my "ADD" (itself a product of me wanting to get myself extra timing on the ACT and looking up how to get diagnosed).

Really screwed myself over

Yaakov writes:

In Israel, the army, which is compulsory, is probably as effective. There is a huge system for supporting such people and helping them get through compulsory service, with Job experience.

It is also quite effective in getting drop outs into trouble and there are thousands of them. The success stories appear all over all the time. The failures, who suffer from various jail sentences, getting beat up by police or just living on the run to escape being caught until they are old enough to get exempt, do not get much publicity.

It is also noted that many of us did not need this great experience on the "Job" in the first place. But yes, if the compulsory draft is terminated, some people will not enjoy this great opportunity to be forced to manage a first job.

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