McDonald’s Burger Machine Unveiled As “Fight For $15” Moves Forward

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BOSTON — At the same time as a coalition dedicated to passing legislation that would boost the state’s hourly minimum wage to $15 delivered its presentation on Beacon Hill, across town in Kenmore Square a McDonald’s franchise unveiled the world’s first Big Mac machine.

The legislative briefing held by Raise Up Massachusetts, a coalition of labor, religious and community groups, also saw various experts outline a series of reasons for why progressive measures such as instituting paid family and medical leave and imposing additional surtaxes on the state’s top earners would help Massachusetts.

The coalition’s $15 minimum wage legislation, filed by state Rep. Dan Donahue (D-Worcester) and state Sen. Kenneth Donnelly (D-Arlington), seeks to raise the minimum wage at so-called “big-box stores” and fast food franchises by $1 per year until 2021, when it would reach $15. The proposal follows a previously enacted law that expired this month, one which raised the minimum wage from $8 to $11 over the span of three years.

According to Raise Up Massachusetts, the proposal now before the state Legislature contains guarantees beyond 2021 — specifically, the minimum wage would then “be adjusted each year to rise along with increases in the cost of living.”

“The increase in the cost of living shall be measured by the percentage increase, if any, as of August of the previous year over the level as of August of the year preceding that of the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), or its successor index as published by the U.S. Department of Labor or its successor agency, with the amount of the minimum wage increase rounded up to the nearest multiple of 5 cents,” the bill states.  

McDonald’s announced that their Big Mac machine would be making its worldwide debut on Jan. 24, less than a week after Donahue and Donnelly filed their joint legislation.

Noah Berger, president of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, told New Boston Post after Tuesday’s briefing that the threat of automation should not influence whether or not Massachusetts should adopt a higher minimum wage scale.

Massachusetts Budget and Police Center President Noah Berger, one of the briefing’s experts. (Evan Lips — New Boston Post)

“Increased automation allows workers to become more productive,” Berger said. “It can allow for higher wages because it increases productivity.

“It’s a trend we’ve seen over the long term, throughout history.”

Meanwhile, at the McDonald’s in Kenmore Square, Raymond Colon, a regional marketing manager for the fast-food giant, stressed that the Big Mac machine is merely a one-day promotion. Colon also explained that the machine itself does not produce the savory burgers on its own — McDonald’s workers must keep it stocked with fresh ingredients, including freshly cooked burger patties. The fast-food chain has dubbed it “  customized digital Big Mac ATM.”

“We are in charge of the machine, replenishing it maybe every four to five minutes with new fresh parts, done right here in the restaurant,” Colon told New Boston Post. “That machine does not ‘make the burgers’ — there’s a heater inside to control the temperature and the humidity, and basically — it’s supposed to be fun and engaging where the consumers come and either tweet or log in with their email  and they get to choose a free product.”

Tuesday’s free burger promotion drew hordes of customers. As of 1:30 p.m., with the offer slated to end by 2 p.m., the line spilled out the door of the McDonald’s, stretched down Commonwealth Avenue and around the corner onto Brookline Avenue, towards Fenway Park:

Colon explained that the promotion is specifically aimed at drumming up demand for a new series of Big Macs — in addition to the tried-and-true Big Mac, McDonald’s will now be offering a smaller Big Mac Jr. and a larger Grand Mac.  

When pressed about whether the new Big Mac machine was a sign of future automation, Colon stressed that McDonald’s has no plans as of now to replace workers.

“No, this is the only place this machine has been, and it will be the only place and it will be only for today,” he said. “After we finish the event, it’s gone and it will never come back again.

“This is just a promotional thing, we’re never going to have a McDonald’s with ATM-like machines dispensing burgers — we’re all about fresh products coming out of the line and directly into the hands of the consumer, nice and fresh.”