by Spencer Winstanley
Former McDonald’s CEO Ed Rensi, in an interview with Fox Business, has added his two cents to the ongoing debate about minimum wage with a tech-centric angle, and it doesn’t look good for low-skill workers:
“I was as at the National Restaurant Show yesterday and if you look at the robotic devices that are coming into the restaurant industry — it’s cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who’s inefficient making $15 an hour bagging French fries — it’s nonsense and it’s very destructive and it’s inflationary and it’s going to cause a job loss across this country like you’re not going to believe.”
The technology required to complete increasingly difficult tasks is becoming much easier to implement for employers and could spell trouble for workers near the poverty line. By increasing the minimum wage to $15/hr Rensi contends it will only accelerate business owners’ move toward automation:
“It’s not just going to be in the fast food business. Franchising is the best business model in the United States. It’s dependent on people that have low job skills that have to grow. Well if you can’t get people a reasonable wage, you’re going to get machines to do the work. It’s just common sense. It’s going to happen whether you like it or not. And the more you push this it’s going to happen faster.”
While Rensi is not renowned for his economic acumen, he does make a solid point. If workers demand a wage that will far exceed the long-term cost of buying a machine, it’s a no-brainer for business owners; buy robots.
Overseas, the trend for replacing low skilled workers with robots has seen adoption on a massive scale. Foxconn, the Chinese manufacturer of Apple’s iPhone just announced that it will replace 60,000 jobs with automation.
This trend of automating low-skill tasks is nothing new but with the proliferation of cheaper automated options it is bound to come to the fore in upcoming labor disputes.