Retail, It’s Time To Change!

The Fight For 15 movement is in the news, especially with McDonald’s and its franchise owners. There is a concern franchise owners will be reluctant to increase wages to $15. There also is a concern if McDonald’s the corporation puts pressure on them, franchises will go away. That may be but it’s worth the push.

Fast-food restaurants, and all of retail, need to increase the wage. Increase of wages can provide more skilled workers. Many years ago, I was in fast-food restaurant management and at one of the chains I worked for, we prided ourselves on a higher starting wage than McDonald’s and scheduled pay increases that also were higher than McDonald’s. While it wasn’t much, it still made it much easier to find some great workers who did an outstanding job for the type of work they had to do.

But it isn’t just the low pay that gives retail a bad rap. The retail industry has created its own set of problems by its unwillingness to change the culture which is a top down, traditional style culture that rarely listens to the people who actually do the selling and the buying. The pay increase will be great for workers in the short term but the only long term improvement is in the working conditions.

The reports of scheduling problems are true as I experienced and they continue to this day. One manager I worked with would sometimes post a schedule for the first few days of the new schedule because he claimed not to have time to finish the entire week. Apparently, he was able to plan out his personal time while regular employees were unable to make any personal plans.

The other scheduling complaint is also true. We also were encouraged to send people home if we weren’t busy or, worse yet, were encouraged to ask people once they arrived, to either come back or call later to find out if they would be needed. Some managers would tempt fate with labor laws by not allowing employees to “clock-in” for work but sit in the back of the store until it was decided if they would be needed. That could be as long as a half-hour – at least.

Times are changing and society takes a different look at these working conditions. Younger workers in particular are pushing back. While some of us might consider it to be bad work ethic, it’s pushing the envelope to make the needed change. This also is not saying all retail managers are bad. There are some very good managers out there who have to work within the confines of the system. It’s the good ones that know how to maneuver things to make it work for both those above and the employee.

Retail business could flourish on employee engagement if allowed. As in most businesses, the focus is on the customer. Most employees understand that but engaged employees who are made to feel like they’re part of the business can help identify new ways to deliver customer service that will benefit everybody including the customer.

Maybe retail needs to involve employees in the scheduling problem. By doing so, more and new ideas and solutions could be created. It could start a new trend! Maybe retail could allow more time for managers and employees to get meet and discuss customer service issues since the employees are on the ones on the front line.

In a Huffington Post blog from last June, it showed the results of a survey taken among potential sales employees. It showed what was important to those people. After a decent wage and benefits, it’s all about the culture, satisfaction of the job and growth and development.

We blogged before the Demoulas Market Basket grocery stores. Grocery stores are considered part of the retail industry but look at the difference in attitudes! Workers who wanted the CEO back because he treated employees with respect and treated them as he or anyone would like to be treated. If you had more CEOs in retail like Artie T., it could help the entire industry change.

Retail establishments, you want to grow? You want a bigger increase from one year to the next? Look at the survey results! How do you do it? Employee engagement of course!

About CALMC Blog

Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to involving employers and employees to preserve jobs, resolve workplace issues, and promote labor-management cooperation. Visit our website at
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