On Labor Day, 2013, much of the debate over the current state of the American workforce has focused on whether Congress should raise the federal minimum wage. In response to a “lost decade” of wage stagnation, President Barack Obama has called for increasing the minimum wage to $9 per hour, up from the current rate of $7.25, while more aggressive advocates have called for a raise to as high as $15 per hour. Perhaps unsurprisingly, however, Republican leaders in Congress have shot down such suggestions, arguing that mandating higher wages will hurt businesses.
According to businessman John Pepper, that argument could not be more wrong. Pepper is the co-founder and CEO of Boloco, a New England-based burrito chain that pays its employees an entry level salary of between $9 and $11 per hour. In an interview with Fox Business News’ Stuart Varney this week, Pepper explained why — unlike other fast food restaurants, whose paltry wages have recently inspired protests across the country — Boloco chooses to invest in its employees.
“As opposed to constantly looking for ways to keep wages down, we’re constantly looking for practices and ways to bring wages up,” Pepper told Varney. He went on to explain how treating workers fairly ultimately helps his company’s bottom line.
“It’s about connecting with guests…and building a loyalty that drives people back, that alongside productivity is what builds sales and what builds profitability,” he said. “In that case you can pay people a lot more than what we pay as a rule in this industry.”
Pepper declined to endorse a minimum wage hike — saying that “I don’t really care about the government in this instance — but he made it clear that he has no intention of slowing his employees’ wage growth in the future. “We have to work beyond the government…for the betterment of our people, and our business, and our shareholders,” he said.
Pepper’s interview with Varney can be seen below:
Copyright 2013 The National Memo