There’s an interesting bit of behind-the-scenes news on the fast food campaign today. All the major chains (including McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s) are members of a retail trade group called the National Retail Federation (NRF). The NRF – like the National Restaurant Association – has long been an opponent of the kind of minimum-wage increases that the fast food campaign is calling for. Thus, the NRF said in April that “[t]here is clear evidence that mandated wage hikes undermine the job prospects for less skilled and part-time workers,” and it called minimum-wage advocacy “sound-bite politics.”
But Bloomberg Businessweek reports today that the NRF will soon have a new chairman with quite a different view of the minimum-wage issue. Kip Tindell, CEO of Container Store Group, will take the reins at NRF next month and told Businessweek that he will “encourage members of the association to boost wages and rethink their opposition to legislation.” Speaking of McDonald’s in particular, Tindell said “I get to talk to these guys, I know they’re going to do it.” And Tindell isn’t all talk. He’s succeeded in putting these values into practice: Container Store pays about two times the average retail wage and provides health-coverage for part-time employees.
Last week, I wrote about the current lack of dialogue between fast-food workers and employers and I sketched a vehicle for moving forward on the wage issue. The change of leadership at NRF is a promising development on this front. If Tindell decides to, he can take leadership here and encourage the kind of dialogue I outlined. If he does that, we may see some real progress before too long.