Idiots Blame Robot McDonalds On Texas's Famous $25 Minimum Wage
One of the more disturbing American legends is the story of John Henry, a Black American steel worker who, when confronted by his boss with the prospect of being replaced by the steam engine, challenged the steam engine to a steel driving competition, won the competition because the machine was unable to do things a man could, and then fell over and died with a hammer in his hand (as he had predicted as a child). Henry was both a myth and an actual man. The actual man, John Henry, was a 19-year-old working as a "steel driving man" not of his own volition or lifelong dedication to hammering, but as part of one of the convict lease programs that replaced slavery as a source of free labor in the decades following the Civil War, and he died of silicosis rather than of exhaustion.
"Lord, a man ain't nothing but a man
But before I'd let your steam drill beat me down
I'd die with a hammer in my hand, Lord, Lord"
— The Ballad of John Henry
Both stories are pretty depressing, as is the fact that what people have frequently taken from the legend is that dying to prove oneself superior to a machine in order to keep a crappy job that can kill you in a variety of other ways is a heroic, American thing to do. Even if one is eventually replaced by a machine.
This week, McDonald's debuted its first automated restaurant, in which human workers are replaced by conveyor belts. Predictably, some pretty terrible people had some pretty terrible reactions to this news.
"Awesome. No more attitude at the counter," said a TikTok user calling himself CoolDadio, who has definitely never worked a crappy minimum wage job in his life.
"Well the people that work there act like they don't wanna be there. This solves solves that problem!!" wrote user5722783407516, adding several cry-laughing emojis.
Several other Tik-Tok users got their schadenfreude on, gleefully laughing about the stupid workers who wanted to be paid enough to live in order to work there.
"Some people were calling for $21Hr.....well, there is your answer!!!!" said a fella named Dane Miller.
"McDonald's workers: We want to be paid $22 an hour. McDonald's: Aight, bet." wrote EL_JEFE_ZAMORA.
Taking this same tack, unsurprisingly, was Elijah Schaffer, who earlier this year lost his own job at Glenn Beck's The Blaze after groping a female colleague's breast. Imagine how terrible you'd have to be to get kicked off of The Blaze for sexual harassment! And possibly replaced with a robot who doesn't grope the breasts of the women who work there!
"You asked for $25 minimum wage," he tweeted. "You get: First fully automated McDonalds in Texas."
\u201cYou asked for $25 minimum wage \n\nYou get: First fully automated McDonalds in Texas \u201d— ELIJAH (@ELIJAH) 1671676865
The minimum wage in Texas, for the record, is $7.25 — not $25 an hour. And the food is still being made by humans. The reason workers have been able to demand higher wages is because there are not as many people willing to do this work anymore and therefore those who need it have to pay more for it. What? Are workers supposed to selflessly take lower paying jobs than necessary just to ensure that McDonalds franchise owners are able to make money off of them?
Automation and machinery have been used as a cudgel with which to beat workers and keep them in line since the days of John Henry, at least. Workers in low-wage jobs are cautioned not to ask for too much, lest the bosses stop feeling so charitable and decide to give their jobs to robots. The underlying theme of this is always that these people have jobs not because their labor is necessary, but because of the gorgeous generosity of job creators.
It shouldn't have to be this way, but we see work as a virtue in and of itself rather than as a means to an end. People work to prove their value to society and, in exchange for that, they get to have some amount of ability to survive. Imagine if instead of making people fear labor-saving technology, we were able to look at it as a path to a future where people work less and are still able to live comfortably and survive.
This is not a new idea. There are a lot of reasons to criticize former Louisiana Governor Huey Long, but he certainly had the right idea on more than a few things. In his famous "Every Man A King" speech, he proposed a universal basic income, a maximum wealth, and limiting the hours of work to what was necessary to produce what people actually need. He wasn't the first or last to do it, but he did so rather eloquently.
We will limit hours of work. There is not any necessity of having overproduction. I think all you have got to do, ladies and gentlemen, is just limit the hours of work to such an extent as people will work only so long as is necessary to produce enough for all of the people to have what they need. Why, ladies and gentlemen, let us say that all of these labor-saving devices reduce hours down to where you do not have to work but four hours a day; that is enough for these people, and then praise be the name of the Lord, if it gets that good. Let it be good and not a curse, and then we will have five hours a day and five days a week, or even less than that, and we might give a man a whole month off during a year, or give him two months; and we might do what other countries have seen fit to do, and what I did in Louisiana, by having schools by which adults could go back and learn the things that have been discovered since they went to school.
That sounds very nice, actually.
We tend to assume that people are so naturally rotten that, in a society with less work to keep us virtuous, we would all descend into sloth and gluttony and lust and whatever other deadly sins, instead of doing things to benefit society that don't necessarily produce capital. We assume that brilliant innovators would not create things that benefit society without the promise of having more wealth than they or their children or their children's children could spend in their lifetimes.
We rarely consider that this may not actually be the case.
Unfortunately, we do not currently live in a society in which we believe that just being a person ought to mean a certain right to survival and dignity, so I guess don't go to this McDonalds and don't use the self-checkout until we do.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse