What Bosses Can Do To Make Sure Employees Don’t Go Hungry

A startlingly simple solution

Hunger Games

Billfold pal Hanna Brooks Olsen has written a great piece for Medium about the way problematic way employers these days often prioritize exciting-seeming perks like free breakfast for employees over less sexy but more vital things like, you know, salary.

1 Way to Help Your Employees Struggling with Food Insecurity and Hunger

Forget the tips and tricks to help your employees deal with hunger, implores HBO, and simply pay workers enough that they can feel full.

[Workers are hungry] not because you didn’t have Tupperwares in the office to pack out the old breadsticks. It’s not because you almost threw out the leftover lasagne that Mary at the reception desk baked. It’s not because you made them feel bad about it. It’s because their paycheck is just too damn small. …

One December I literally only purchased novelty candies and other boxed gift-type foods from Macy’s to eat because my wages were so low and a gift card was the only spending money I had. Those same bosses also determined there would be no annual raises that year. The top boss took home a bonus in the multiple millions.

HBO also recounts a story about working for a start up that prioritized perks over pay raises, until a new numbers guy came in and put breakfast sandwiches on the chopping block.

“We’re spending about $60,000 per year on bacon alone,” he told us. Bacon was literally getting paid more than I was.

Wow. Bacon’s great (I hear) but COME ON.

This is all reminiscent of talia jane, init? You may recall that she was subsisting on rice and office snacks because, even while working full-time for a highly successful company, she wrote, “I can’t afford to buy groceries. … Your employee for your food delivery app that you spent $300 million to buy can’t afford to buy food. That’s gotta be a little ironic, right?”

An Open Letter To My CEO

It’s also part of the growing phenomenon we could call white-collar hunger, which Nicole Dieker recently addressed.

“Low-Wage Work Is No Longer a Guarantee Against Hunger”

Much of which can be blamed, according to Time, on “the ethos of shareholder ‘value,’ which puts a premium on keeping costs, including labor, as low as possible.”

Once upon a time, businessman Henry Ford made headlines by investing in his own employees, compensating them enough that they could afford to be consumers of their own products.

Why Did Henry Ford Double His Minimum Wage?

Of his decision, Ford wrote:

“The owner, the employees, and the buying public are all one and the same, and unless an industry can so manage itself as to keep wages high and prices low it destroys itself, for otherwise it limits the number of its customers. One’s own employees ought to be one’s own best customers.” … “We increased the buying power of our own people, and they increased the buying power of other people, and so on and on,” Ford wrote. “It is this thought of enlarging buying power by paying high wages and selling at low prices that is behind the prosperity of this country.”

Ford chastised other bosses for setting different priorities, for “‘continually putting the profit motive over what he called the wage motive,’” saying, “When business thought only of profit for the owners ‘instead of providing goods for all,’ then it frequently broke down.”

Indeed. Today, that “only of profit for the owners” thinking is the norm: CEOs make 204 times what a median worker does. In the most egregious example of this kind of pay disparity, the ratio of exec pay to worker pay is about 2,000:1. Even in a globalized economy, there has to be a way to get executives to feel that way about their workers again, to take pride not merely in maintaining a trim bottom line, but in paying their employees enough that they can eat.

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