On the same day that fast food workers around the country staged protests demanding a livable wage, McDonald’s advised its employees to make sure they tip their pool boy and personal fitness trainer.

Where’s the line between tone-deafness and ignorance?

NBC News reports that the advice came through an internal Web page that USA Today says has since been taken down. These are the same personnel folks who last month suggested employees hurting for money return Christmas gifts they receive for the cash. From NBC News:

The tipping guide from etiquette maven Emily Post on McDonald’s website lists several high-ticket suggestions for givers during the holiday season, including “a gift from your family (or one week’s pay), plus a small gift from your child” for an au pair, “one day’s pay” for a housekeeper and “cost of one cleaning” for a pool cleaner.

The site also lists suggestions for dog walkers, massage therapists and personal fitness trainers.

In an email to CNBC, McDonald’s spokeswoman Lisa McComb said: “This is content provided by a third-party partner and quotes from one of the best-known etiquette gurus, Emily Post. We continue to review the resource and will ask the vendor to make changes as needed.”

But note she didn’t say McDonald’s would make changes to the wage structure at its franchises, which are at the crux of the nationwide walkouts, and why McDonald’s blunders resonate so widely. As John Logan writes at The Hill, the basic issues are of fairness, and forcing businesses to pay their workers sufficiently so that they can move off the public dole, rather than having taxpayers subsidize their wage policies. According to Logan:

The industry’s wages are so low that even those front-line employees who work 40 hours per week are often forced to rely on public assistance, and only 13 percent have access to employer-sponsored healthcare programs.

Most fast food workers have experienced “wage theft” — such as failure to pay overtime or receive required rest breaks, improper deductions from paychecks, out-of-pocket deductions for register stoppages, and late or bounced paychecks — including 84 percent of workers in New York City. But it does need to be this way. In addition to benefitting workers, the fast food industry itself would likely benefit from higher wages, as this would reduce extremely high rates of employee turnover and result in productivity and efficiency gains.

But it is not only fast food workers that suffer from the industry’s business model. Every year, taxpayers subsidize fast-food corporations to the tune of almost $7 billion per year, and fast food workers are more than twice as likely to receive public assistance than are other workers. Fast food workers and their dependents are among the nation’s biggest users of Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program, Earned Income Tax Credit, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. McDonald’s – the nation’s largest fast food employer of workers who depend on public assistance — has an advice line that encourages its underpaid employees to seek food stamps and Medicaid. When McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, KFC, Burger King, and Taco Bell — all highly-profitably operations — refuse to pay their front-line employees a living wage, it’s not just fast food workers who pay the price. U.S. taxpayers end up picking up the tab.

So where is the Republican Party on this issue? Defending the corporations and attacking the protesters, Logan reports:

It is little wonder, then, that the fast food industry costs the public $3.5 billion per year in Medicare and food stamps subsidies alone. The only policy solutions offered by the GOP would mean more misery for fast food workers and greater financial hardship for middle-class Americans.

—Posted by Scott Martelle


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