‘We Danes accept that a burger is expensive’

Americans who have their hearts set on working for the Burger King Corporation should emigrate. In Denmark, the average fast food employee earns the equivalent of twenty dollars. Socialism!

In Denmark, fast-food workers are guaranteed benefits their American counterparts could only dream of. Under the industry’s collective agreement, there are five weeks’ paid vacation, paid maternity and paternity leave and a pension plan. Workers must be paid overtime for working after 6 p.m. and on Sundays.

Unlike most American fast-food workers, the Danes often get their work schedules four weeks in advance, and employees cannot be sent home early without pay just because business slows.

Actually, with the exception of the protracted vacation period these are conditions that American workers expected in the fifties and sixties as their due.


As a shift manager at a Burger King in Tampa, Fla., Anthony Moore earns $9 an hour, typically working 35 hours a week and taking home around $300 weekly.

“It’s very inadequate,” said Mr. Moore, 26, who supervises 10 workers. His rent is $600 a month, and he often falls behind on his lighting and water bills. A single father, he receives $164 a month in food stamps for his daughters, 5 and 2.

“Sometimes I ask, ‘Do I buy food or do I buy them clothes?’  ” Mr. Moore said. “If I made $20 an hour, I could actually live, instead of dreaming about living.”

Free enterprise for the poor, socialism for the rich, as Gore Vidal pointed out decades ago. To make any progress in the States requires first accepting the truth that indulgences are cheap because their manufacturers treat employees as commodities, then realizing that it needn’t be this way – what William Holden in Network sententiously called simple human decency. As a sane Dane points out, “We Danes accept that a burger is expensive, but we also know that working conditions and wages are decent when we eat that burger.”

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