Danish McDonald’s Workers Earn $20 an Hour, More Than Double What Many Fast Food Workers Earn Here. Why?

The New York Times recently ran a provocative story that speaks to what motivates our New York employment lawyers to get up every morning and do what we do.

The story highlighted the differences between the lives and lifestyles of Danish fast food workers and fast food workers here in the United States. Believe it or not, if you work at a Danish Burger King, you can earn $20 an hour. Even though the cost of living in Denmark is higher than it is in the United States, this much higher hourly wage allows fast food workers in Denmark to pay their rents and mortgages, support their families, and live decent lives.

Hampus Elofsson, a 24 year-old Danish Burger King worker, explained: “You can make a decent living here working at fast food…you don’t have to struggle to get by.”

Even though Denmark has no minimum wage law, it has powerful unions, which set the tenor for the employer-employee relationship. When McDonald’s first tried to break into Denmark several years ago, the restaurant initially refused to abide by union rules…until protests forced McD’s to capitulate.

Meanwhile, a University of California at Berkeley study recently found that, on average, American fast food workers earn just $8.90 an hour. Contrast Elofsson’s contentedness with the anxiety and frustration of Anthony More, a Burger King Shift Manager in Tampa, Florida, who earns $9 an hour, per the New York Times. The 26-year-old Mr. More, who has two young children to feed and clothe as a single dad, describes his situation as “very inadequate… sometimes I ask, ‘do I buy food or do I buy them clothes?… If I made $20 an hour, I could actually live, instead of dreaming about living.”

Mr. More described how he skips visits to the doctor and often goes to work sick because he can’t afford to take time off or to get checkups. Industry officials scoff at the Danish-US comparison, claiming that it’s like “comparing apples-to-autos.” But other analysts disagree and say that the real problem is not economic, but rather cultural. In United States, we just happen to have a culture that doesn’t care about what happens to lower wage workers.

Fortunately, workers have advocates like the team here at Joseph & Kirschenbaum. If you or someone you love has been struggling with an unfair workplace problem, such as a tip pool violation or harassment or discrimination, we want to hear from you. Call us now at (212) 688-5640, or email us at info@jhllp.com for assistance now.