A Living Wage: In Denmark, They Have It Their Way

Living Wages, Rarity for U.S. Fast-Food Workers, Served Up in Denmark

By Liz Alderman and Steven Greenhouse/ New York Times/ October 27, 2014

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?

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18 Responses to A Living Wage: In Denmark, They Have It Their Way

  1. ragnarsbhut says:

    Arlen Grossman, I have heard many conflicting arguments on this issue. Have you ever experienced this particular problem when you discuss this matter with other people?

  2. ragnarsbhut says:

    Arlen Grossman, I am not opposed to the minimum wage. The issue as I see it is that we should also be studying its effects on employment and the economy.

    • I agree. We should study the consequences of a higher minimum wage. In the meantime,
      giving millions of low-wage workers a living wage will go a long way toward reducing the obscene inequality in our economy.

  3. “Arlen Grossman, I have no problem if a rich person got that way from investments in some cases. Having said that, I prefer personally the idea of getting rich due to hard work.”
    Jeffrey, we all like the idea of getting rich due to hard work. I guess where we differ is just how rich.
    When some have billions and many others have little or nothing, then there is something wrong. I understand you feel differently, and that is why we will probably never agree. But mankind alway has and always will always have those philosophic and political differences. That’s just the way it is.

  4. Conceptually, a living wage has an appeal. The problem is that it is purely an artificial construct.

    • Artificial or not, it makes a real difference in real people’s lives.

      • Arlen Grossman, what is better for a poor person-artificially increasing their take-home pay through the minimum wage increase or paying them based on how diligent they are? If the former, what is the rationale for it? If the latter, would this not be an incentive to work harder?

        • And what’s better: for rich people to get extra tax breaks and subsidies and get richer,
          or for them to get less breaks and have to work harder to stay rich? I’d be curious what you would say.

          • Arlen Grossman, I have no problem if a rich person got that way from investments in some cases. Having said that, I prefer personally the idea of getting rich due to hard work.

  5. Good comment. I agree. Americans forget that when unions were strong, the middle class was thriving. As unions have disappeared, so has the middle class.

    • Arlen Grossman, what if someone got rich by building an enterprise that employed half of the city, depending on its size, in which the owner resided in? If more jobs and bigger paychecks were the end result, how would that be a bad thing?

      • Not necessarily a bad thing, Jeffrey. . It all depends if the rich guy is paying decent wages and benefits.
        Back to you: suppose it were the government doing the same. Is that a bad thing?

        • Arlen Grossman, if government officials had the ability to dictate what businesses pay their employees, we as a populace should be able to dictate to them how much of their salaries they should get to keep. Just saying that a business owner is required by legal mandate to pay their employees $15.00 an hour, even if some work hard while other employees slack off, is one thing I don’t get. Why should Joe (a hypothetical character) bust his ass to earn a paycheck and get paid $15.00 and Steve (a hypothetical character) get paid the same amount if he does not work as hard?

          • Jeffrey, $15 an hour should be enough to be considered a livable wage, and that worker would not need government assistance (I know you like that). As for your Joe and Steve example, my response is that hard-working Joe will keep his job and possibly get promoted and make even more money. Lazy Steve, on the other hand, might get laid off or fired.

          • Arlen Grossman, I have no problem with giving help to people who need it. My issue is with the fact that small government conservative republican types do not seem to understand how raising the minimum wage benefits them in the long run. Yes, I did say that the minimum wage seemed to have an artificial construct. The point behind that statement was to illustrate the absurdity of the arguments that raising the minimum wage is a bad idea. I could have been more specific, yes, so I will concede that point.

  6. RAY TILTON says:

    Every generation of Robber Barons in this country since the end of the Civil War has made it their holy mission to make war against trade unions.

    No Prisoners has always been their policy with regard to trade unions. That is why in the USA for every ten thousand people you can find who hate trade unions, only three or four people out of the ten thousand have ever had any direct contact with unions. The Robber Barons have conducted most of their war in the arena of propaganda and they won that war at least fifty years ago.

    Anybody who tells you different is simply under the influence of that propaganda. The per capita participation in trade unions in Denmark and several other European countries where people earn a living wage and there is not the need for state welfare that there is here in the USA is vastly greater than the per capita participation in unions in the USA —- not by a few numbers but by several factors.

    Thanks Arlen for sending this.


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