The New York Times answers the above question in Living Wages, Rarity for U.S. Fast Food Workers, Served Up In Denmark.
On a recent afternoon, Hampus Elofsson ended his 40-hour workweek at a Burger King and prepared for a movie and beer with friends. He had paid his rent and all his bills, stashed away some savings, yet still had money for nights out.
That is because he earns the equivalent of $20 an hour — the base wage for fast-food workers throughout Denmark and two and a half times what many fast-food workers earn in the United States.
“You can make a decent living here working in fast food,” said Mr. Elofsson, 24. “You don’t have to struggle to get by.”
With an eye to workers like Mr. Elofsson, some American labor activists and liberal scholars are posing a provocative question: If Danish chains can pay $20 an hour, why can’t those in the United States pay the $15 an hour that many fast-food workers have been clamoring for?
But don’t American conservatives say business and the economy will collapse if workers are paid a living wage?
“We see from Denmark that it’s possible to run a profitable fast-food business while paying workers these kinds of wages,” said John Schmitt, an economist at the Center for Economic Policy Research, a liberal think tank in Washington.
But as Denmark illustrates, companies have managed to adapt in countries that demand a living wage, and economists like Mr. Schmitt see it as a possible model.
Denmark has no minimum-wage law. But Mr. Elofsson’s $20 an hour is the lowest the fast-food industry can pay under an agreement between Denmark’s 3F union, the nation’s largest, and the Danish employers group Horesta, which includes Burger King, McDonald’s, Starbucks and other restaurant and hotel companies.
By contrast, fast-food wages in the United States are so low that half of the nation’s fast-food workers rely on some form of public assistance, a study from the University of California, Berkeley found. American fast-food workers earn an average of $8.90 an hour.
Is it possible for American businesses to change?
“We would need to phase this in,” said Mr. Schmitt, who is co-editor of the book “Low-Wage Work in the Wealthy World.” “We’ve created a low-road economy, and it’s going to take us some time to build up the speed to get onto the high road.”
Even so wages aren’t the only difference.
In Denmark, fast-food workers are guaranteed benefits their American counterparts could only dream of. Under the industry’s collective agreement, there are five weeks’ paid vacation, paid maternity and paternity leave and a pension plan. Workers must be paid overtime for working after 6 p.m. and on Sundays.
Is your mind blown yet, how about this for responsibility and respect for your fellow citizen?
Unlike most American fast-food workers, the Danes often get their work schedules four weeks in advance, and employees cannot be sent home early without pay just because business slows.
Sure Danish fast-food workers don’t need public assistance because employer’s accept responsibility for their employee’s but are their any fast food chains like McDonalds still operating?
Denmark’s high wages make it hard, though not impossible, to maintain profitability at his restaurants, said Martin Drescher, the general manager of HMSHost Denmark, the airport restaurants operator.
“We have to acknowledge it’s more expensive to operate,” said Mr. Drescher. “But we can still make money out of it — and McDonald’s does, too. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be in Denmark.”
He noted proudly that a full-time Burger King employee made enough to live on. “The company doesn’t get as much profit, but the profit is shared a little differently,” he said.
“We don’t want there to be a big difference between the richest and poorest, because poor people would just get really poor,” Mr. Drescher added. “We don’t want people living on the streets. If that happens, we consider that we as a society have failed.”
If you share this with your conservative uncle be prepared for some Fox News backlash, everyone else will see change is possible.