Georgia Minimum Wage Hike Leads to Massive Layoffs at Fast-Food Chain

Georgia recently increased its minimum wage to $15 per hour, aligning with a national trend seen in many other states and cities across the U.S. The goal was to enhance the living standards and economic security of low-wage workers, particularly in the fast-food industry, which boasts over 200,000 employees in Georgia, as per the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

However, the outcome differed significantly from the intended improvement, as numerous fast-food chains responded to heightened labor costs by laying off workers, reducing hours, and even closing down locations. In this blog post, we will delve into how the minimum wage increase in Georgia had unintended consequences and negatively impacted the very workers it aimed to assist.

Impact on the Fast-Food Industry

The fast-food sector operates in a highly competitive, low-margin environment, characterized by high turnover rates, minimal customer loyalty, and constant cost-cutting pressure. The minimum wage hike in Georgia added a substantial burden to these chains, requiring them to pay their workers 50% more without the ability to significantly raise prices due to elastic demand for their products. Consequently, many fast-food chains implemented drastic measures to navigate the challenges brought about by the minimum wage hike:

1. Layoffs: Faced with increased labor costs, a common response was to reduce the workforce, either through layoffs or by refraining from hiring new employees. For instance, McDonald’s, a major fast-food chain in Georgia, announced the layoff of 15,000 workers and halted new hires, citing the minimum wage hike as the primary reason. This led to thousands of workers losing their jobs and struggling to find new employment in a competitive job market.

2. Hour Reductions: Another prevalent response involved cutting the hours of existing workers, either by shortening shifts or reducing weekly schedules. Wendy’s, another popular fast-food chain, announced a 25% reduction in worker hours, from 40 to 30 hours per week, attributing it to the minimum wage hike. Despite the higher hourly wage, this meant reduced incomes for many workers, along with the added uncertainty of unstable schedules.

3. Location Closures: While less common, some chains opted for more drastic measures, such as closing down locations, either through sales or outright shutdowns. KFC, a prominent fast-food chain, declared the closure of 50 out of its 300 locations in Georgia, citing the minimum wage hike as the primary reason. This resulted in hundreds of job losses and the removal of favorite dining options for many customers.

Worker and Advocate Reactions

The impact of the minimum wage hike spurred debates among workers, advocates, and policymakers. Supporters argued that it was a necessary change to uplift low-wage workers and enhance economic well-being, accusing fast-food chains of exaggerating the negative effects.

Opponents contended that the hike had detrimental consequences on employment and income opportunities, asserting that chains had no choice but to adapt to new market conditions. The divide in opinions reflected broader discussions, with proponents emphasizing the referendum approval by Georgia voters in 2022, while opponents highlighted warnings from economists and experts about unintended consequences.


The well-intentioned but poorly executed minimum wage hike in Georgia aimed to uplift low-wage workers but inadvertently harmed them. The fast-food industry, a significant employer of low-wage workers, bore the brunt through layoffs, hour reductions, and location closures.

The subsequent debates among workers, advocates, and policymakers underscored the complexities and trade-offs associated with such policies. Georgia’s experience serves as a cautionary tale for other regions considering or implementing similar changes, emphasizing the need for careful analysis, design, and implementation that considers the varied impacts on workers, employers, and the economy.

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