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What Taco Bell’s $100,000 Salary Offer Says About U.S. Jobs

Source | | Leslie Patton | Sophie Alexander

Who makes $100,000 a year? According to the U.S. government, air traffic controllers do. The academics who teach architects to design buildings that won’t collapse. And maybe soon, the guy who makes your Triple Layer Nachos some bleary midnight.

Taco Bell’s announcement of a pilot program to raise manager pay to white-collar levels could presage a middle-class life for workers who have struggled in a winner-take-all economy. For Alex Torres, who grinds away as a $15.50-an-hour Taco Bell shift supervisor in Chicago, that salary — roughly triple his current take — could mean fulfilling a dream of seeing Rome.

“If I had more money it would allow me to do a lot more,” he said Thursday before running to sprinkle two hard-shell tacos with lettuce and cheddar.

The eye-catching move by the Yum! Brands Inc.-owned chain arrives amid a staffing crisis for all sorts of restaurants thanks to an unemployment rate at a 50-year low and after years of employers’ complaints that tight margins made higher wages impossible. Applebee’s, IHOP, Panda Express Inc. and Yard House all are paying up to find people to flip burgers, assemble salads and grill chicken. At Applebee’s restaurants in Woburn, Massachusetts, and Springfield, Oregon, a shortage of line cooks means they can earn $19 an hour.

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