Jennifer made a comment on my last blog about how McDonalds depends on needing to have access to its workers 24/7 or else face bankruptcy. This came on the heels of a discussion I had with someone else about the importance of executive compensation so I might as well touch on the subject.
I'm not sure exactly how McDonalds and access to their workers even got into the conversation, but the argument that McDonalds would go bankrupt without their workers is specious at best. Are workers at the lowest levels important to the success of any company? Absolutely. No company can succeed without the people doing the work that makes a company run. But, are they more important than executives and company owners? No. I feel I do very important work at my company, am I more important than the CEO or the shareholders? Hardly.
Now, where would the McDonalds' workers be without McDonalds? They wouldn't have a job. Now if the counter argument is that they could easily find another job somewhere else, the logical next question is why don't they? If working at McDonalds is so miserable, and other jobs are so plentiful and easy to come by, wouldn't all the McDonalds' workers leave en masse?
It is much easier for a company to find low-skilled labor in this country than it is for a low-skilled worker to find a willing employer (I believe the opposite is true for high-skilled workers). Further, it is much more difficult to start, finance, and maintain an new enterprise than it is to provide low skill labor. So the employer is faced with the more difficult job and easier replacement than the low skilled employee. Now who is dependent on whom?
I am not trying to diminish the importance of working Americans. I'm a working American. But the idea that employees are somehow more important than executives and owners gets a lot of traction in this country and it is a notion that is simply untrue. Is it true in some circumstances? Are some executives and owners idiots? Absolutely. But idiot executives do eventually get replaced. And owners? Well its their money to lose, if they want to take a big pile and money and burn it for heat, its perfectly within their right.
Providing capital and executive and strategic direction is hard. If it were easy, everybody would be doing it. Can a company function without either this or its low-skilled labor? No. They are both important. But one should never make the argument that the worker plays a more important role or is somehow more crucial than his employer.