Whenever the Left wants to have a conversation about a “living wage,” it’s almost never a discussion, but a series of demands and slogans made in ALL CAPS on Twitter. Those demands almost always involve the heavy hand of government coercing businesses with the force of law. But one of the Left’s favorite businesses to hate, Chick-fil-A, is showing that entrepreneurs in a competitive free market can improve conditions for workers without paternalistic government oversight.
Eric Mason, the owner of a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Sacramento, California, is lifting his employees’ wages to $17 or $18 dollars an hour. Calling it a “living wage,” Mason says he wants to grow his business long-term by investing in his employees.
From CBS News:
“As the owner, I’m looking at it big-picture and long-term,” Mason told a local news station. “What that does for the business is provide consistency, someone that has relationships with our guests, and it’s going to be building a long-term culture.”
The idea, Mason said, is to hire workers — he prefers “hospitality professionals” — who will stick around, a worthwhile goal for a brand known for its customer service that’s in an industry that had a 73 percent turnover rate in 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“What we are going to be looking for is people trying to raise families,” Mason said. “Maybe they can work just one job.”
Mason is also offering paid time off for his supervisors and giving all employees paid sick leave.
“In order to take care of the guests who dine in the restaurant, I need to take care of my team members first,” he told Insider. “This is an investment into my team members to help them prosper and feel good about coming to work every day.”
This is the heart and soul of free-market capitalism. An entrepreneur is investing his resources in human capital, his employees, so that his business can better serve people. And he’s not throwing away concerns about profit or adopting some socialistic notion of “economic justice” to do it.
As he explained to Insider, he believes this business decision will help him by retaining employees and making the restaurant better for customers. And we all know that a better restaurant for customers means more profits.
“Instead of hiring and training people who leave after a few months, I want to hire people who will stay longer and contribute to running an outstanding restaurant and building relationships with our guests,” he said.
The oft-forgotten virtue of free-market capitalism is that entrepreneurs and their businesses literally exist to serve people, and the best businesses are the ones that best serve customers. Profits are not earned through exploitation, but through the quality of service offered.
Not every business can afford to make the same decision Mason is making. That’s why government interference and one-size-fits-all mandates like a minimum wage hurt workers by incentivizing businesses to cut costs, reduce low-level employee hours, and scale back on benefits. This was the observed experience of Seattle’s $15 minimum wage law. But in an a ideal competitive free market, when government is less involved, the businesses that can afford to copy Mason’s Chick-fil-A will observe what he is doing in Sacramento and adopt similar policies if they work. Workers will flock to employers with the best benefits, customers will flock to the businesses offering the best services, and the businesses that rip off their employees and provide poor service will fail.
We see time and again that less government interference and more competition help services improve, benefit workers, create better relationships between employers, employees, and the customers they serve, improve the happiness of the community, and contribute to human flourishing.
These are outcomes that cannot be mandated by the force of law, whatever noble intentions lawmakers or the Left may have.
Chris Pandolfo is a staff writer and type-shouter for Conservative Review. He holds a B.A. in politics and economics from Hillsdale College. His interests are conservative political philosophy, the American founding, and progressive rock. Follow him on Twitter for doom-saying and great album recommendations @ChrisCPandolfo.
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