They take Big Mac orders silently and quickly. And now they’re at the middle of an early controversy at the Portland region’s marquee November race to the Oregon Legislature. “They” are twin 6-foot-tall automated payment kiosks at an Oregon City McDonald’s owned by state Rep. Janelle Bynum (D-Clackamas) and her husband, Mark.
The couple possesses four McDonald’s franchises. The kiosks would be the first thing entering customers see. “It is kind of difficult to stand up for workers whenever you are placing them in direct competition with machines,” Mann says.
Bynum says that the kiosks, which were being installed when she purchased the store, are directed toward mcdonalds customer survey, not decreasing labor costs.
“The issue to me is, how do I provide access to customers when they would like to visit my location?” Bynum says. “Dine-in clients can purchase, pay [at the kiosk or the front counter] and sit down. We deliver their food to them. I think that it’s a fantastic chance for young people to understand communication skills, as they really have the opportunity to talk and engage with customers.”
The dustup encompasses many different hot-button problems: reimbursement for low-wage workers, the mechanization of entry-level tasks, and the growing lack of teenagers and others seeking to operate in fast food. But in this election season, it’s mostly about partisan politics. Bynum spent almost $1.1 million and Chavez-DeRemer spent 871,000, which makes it the priciest Oregon House race ever.
Shortly before that election, Oregon passed one of the very aggressive minimum wage hikes in the nation. (Lawmakers increased the floor in Portland from $9.25 an hour to the present $11.25. It will rise to $14.75 in 2022.) Republican opponents made dire predictions about the impact on small businesses. Mann states Chavez-DeRemer is very likely to create kiosks and tasks that a campaign issue this year.
Bynum says she has always supported a higher minimum wage and paid medical and family leave for workers, and that her use of kiosks will instead free up workers to provide food to tables and perform other tasks. At the same time, the low unemployment rate and the problem of locating workers helps incentive employers who wish to replace people with machines.
But Bynum insists she is not doing that. “If anything, we’re attempting to grow our organization and add tasks,” she says. “We currently have 15 to 20 openings” (In her Oregon City shop, there is indeed a table with a hand-lettered”we’re hiring” signal a dozen feet in the charge kiosks.)
McDonald’s started installing kiosks nationally in 2015. The fast-food giant says they’re designed to make paying and ordering faster, boosting efficiency. Wall Street analysts have found that kiosks increase earnings and decrease waste. Federal statistics project large fast-food job losses due to technology in coming years.