Photo montage of Moo Cluck Moo restaurant in Dearborn Heights, Mich. (© Moo Cluck Moo via Facebook)
When we last checked in with the folks at Detroit-area burger shop Moo Cluck Moo, they were paying a starting wage of $12 an hour and arguing that their lack of corporate overhead made it easier to pay low-level employees more.

On Tuesday, The Daily Beast reported that co-owners Brian Parker and Harry Moorhouse will reset the chain's minimum wage to $15 starting Oct. 1.

Granted, Moo Cluck Moo has exactly one store and has been in business less than a year, but Parker says the 25% increase is something his company has been considering since its inception.

"We always wanted to be at $15 an hour," said Parker. "It just feels human to do it."

Silly fast-food entrepreneur: Humanity has no place in business. Even though that amounts to $31,000 a year, or just less than the average $25,000 made by the nation's 4.3 million retail salespeople, that hasn't stopped Forbes from deeming a $15-an-hour minimum wage "absurdity."


Businessweek suggests that $10.50 an hour may be the most reasonable place to start the minimum wage discussion.

Despite all the fretting over what a Big Mac at McDonald's (MCD) would cost if worker wages increased, though, Moo Cluck Moo and other fast-food chains, including In-N-Out Burger ($10.50 an hour starting wage), Seattle's Dick's Drive-In($10 an hour to start and full benefits for those working 24 hours a week or more) and Pacific Northwest chain Burgerville (health care for employees working 25 hours a week or more), are implying that big-chain customers aren't getting much for their money. That's part of the reason the $15-an-hour figure has galvanized fast-food workers and inspired strikes and walkouts nationwide. 

For those who argue that these are stepping-stone jobs not worth the extra pay, the economy apparently hasn't received that message. The U.S. economy has recovered roughly 6 million of the nearly 9 million jobs lost during the recession. However, The National Employment Law Project says nearly 60% of all jobs lost during the downturn paid middle-income wages or better, but roughly 65% of the regained jobs are low-wage.

For those who argue that maybe those low-wage earners should have prepared for better careers, keep in mind that more than 280,000 of them are college graduates. The Center For College Affordability and Productivity reported that nearly half of the college graduates from the class of 2010 are working in jobs that don't require a bachelor's degree. A full 38% have taken gigs that don't even require a high school education. According to The Associated Press, that has dropped the median wage for college graduates significantly since 2000 -- just as those same graduates are getting crushed by record-high tuition and debt.

Moo Cluck Moo's owners seem all too aware that the good-paying jobs aren't there and the glut of low-wage jobs might be undervaluing the people who hold them. The federal minimum wage still holds at $7.25 an hour, but an increasing number of independent fast-food employers are arguing that you only get the quality of employee that you pay for.

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