Mullery Discusses Minimum Wage During McDonald’s Shift
WRIGHT TWP. — Working in a McDonald’s drive-through is not a typical job for a state representative, but that’s what State Rep. Gerald Mullery did Monday.
Mullery, D-119, Newport Twp., visited McDonald’s in Wright Twp., where he also worked in the kitchen, learned to make a Big Mac in about 85 seconds and later enjoyed it for lunch.
“It was definitely a unique and different experience,” Mullery said. “All of my experiences at McDonald’s have been in the drive-through or at the counter. I’ve watched people perform these jobs since I was 6 or 7 years and it was more challenging than I anticipated but I was happy to do it.”
During his visit, Mullery met with owners Carol Mueller and Christina Mueller-Curran and they expressed concerns about proposals from Gov. Tom Wolf and Democrats to raise the minimum wage.
Mueller-Curran, whose family owns 15 McDonald’s restaurants in Northeast Pennsylvania, said employees at the fast food chain start above the minimum wage at about $8.50 an hour. Experienced workers make more, she said. The minimum wage in Pennsylvania is $7.25 an hour.
“We don’t pay minimum wage because we wouldn’t be able to get any employees to work for us at minimum wage,” she said.
Mullery said the fight is to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and he thinks “there has to be a happy medium.”
“There has to be something in between where we’re at right now and what’s being proposed by some of the legislators in Harrisburg,” he said.
Mueller said if they hire 16-year-olds who never worked and they are required to pay them $15 an hour right away, they can’t afford it. She said if they have to pay the higher wages proposed, it would lead to higher prices.
“There’s only so much people are willing to pay for our products, so eventually we’re not going to get people buying our products and we would have to go out of business,” Mueller-Curran said.
Wolf recently signed an executive order that raised the minimum wage for employees who work for the state and contractors to $12 an hour. That will increase by 50 cents each year until it reaches $15 per hour in 2024.
The governor wants to raise the minimum wage for all workers in the state but Mullery said, “It’s a little bit different when you’re talking about private industry and family-owned small businesses.”
“It’s a little more difficult and it has a greater impact on the regional economy,” he said. “That gives me cause for concern.”
Mullery said he has also met with leaders of local charities and nonprofit organizations that would struggle if minimum wage was raised to $15 an hour.
“They don’t think they could afford to keep the limited staff that they have on right now if they raised the minimum wage to $15,” he said.
Mueller-Curran also expressed concerns about Wolf’s overtime proposal that could raise the minimum pay for new managers at McDonald’s to about $48,000 a year. It’s difficult to start new managers at that salary, she said.
As a result of this rule, she said she would not be able to pay them at salary rate but they would have to work at an hourly rate. Then, they would lose out on some benefits like an extra week of vacation and lower contribution to their health benefits, she said.
“I lose flexibility, and it would hurt the employee because I’m not putting him in a salaried position right away,” she said.
Mueller-Curran also told Mullery that the McDonald’s restaurant in Wright Twp. will be remodeled next year and the fast food chain will switch from plastic to paper straws in 2020. The store will have self-order kiosks and table service after the remodeling and that will mean more employees will be needed, she said. Filling jobs has been difficult as the workforce has been shrinking, she said.
“We’re always hiring,” she said. “We’ll pay $10 an hour if a person has experience and availability. We’re not even getting the applicants.”
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