‘There isn’t a labour shortage, there’s a cheap labour shortage’: Restaurant paying $20-an-hour reignites hiring debate

Dick’s Drive-in in Kent pays its 15 employees $20 per hour, much higher than Washington State’s minimum hourly wage of $13.5

Maroosha Muzaffar
Monday 01 November 2021 13:28
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Related video: Starbucks will raise US starting wage to $15

A TikTok influencer recently sparked a fierce debate on national hourly wages after she posted about a restaurant in Kent, Washington that pays its staff $20 (£14.6) an hour.

The TikToker who goes by the handle @missadriennek — Miss Teacher Tok — posted a video of the fast-food restaurant, Dick’s Drive-in, with a queue of customers and said that she was able to purchase “two cheeseburgers, a deluxe cheeseburger, two orders of fries, one milkshake, and a root beer” — for just $20.

Several users commented that the low price of the meal showed that arguments against raising minimum wage because they would lead to higher prices for customers do not actually hold up.

The fast-food chain employs 15 employees who are all paid $20 per hour.

According to Statista’s Research Department, the federally-mandated minimum wage in the United States is $7.25 (£5.30) per hour, although the minimum wage varies from state to state. As of 1 January 2021, Washington DC had the highest minimum wage in the country at $15 (£10.96) per hour. The minimum hourly wage in Washington State is $13.5 (£9.86).

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By Sunday, the TikTok posted by @missadriennek had reached more than 612,000 views and had about 6,000 comments.

One user wrote: “Only in America will people complain about other people making a decent wage or call it untenable”, while another said: “Can someone please explain to me why tRumplicans are so against people making a fair wage?”

Hundreds of comments were in favour of increasing the hourly wage nationwide. One commenter said: “There isn’t a labour shortage. There’s a cheap labour shortage.”

But several also spoke against the restaurant’s policy. “Let’s pay everyone 20 an hour so you guys can watch the crash and learn economics real quick.”

The fast-food chain increased its starting wages for employees in September.

“Dick’s is a family-owned company,” the company says on its website. “We treat our employees like family. Dick’s employees enjoy better pay and benefits than employees at any other fast food restaurant in the Seattle area.”

It also says that all employees have access to a “$28,000 scholarship benefit as soon as they pass their first skills test.”

Dick’s Drive-In president Jasmine Donovan told Kiro Radio on 5 October that Dick’s raised its prices earlier this year to afford the pay increase and because of rising costs associated with supply chain issues.

“Our Deluxe [burger], at some of our locations, went up by 25 cents; some other products went up five cents or 10 cents,” Ms Donovan said. “We appreciate that customers don’t mind. We like to be able to pay the highest wages and benefits in the industry, it’s something we’re very proud of. But to do it, we have to sell a lot of burgers and sometimes have to charge a little bit more.”

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