Why Isn't Cuba Held to the Same Moral Standard as McDonald's?
Castro Once Promised Workers 30% Share of Profits, Now Pays Doctors 7%
Posted by Victoria L. Henderson on September 18, 2013 at 8:52 am
The Huffington Post recently ran a story that took aim at McDonald's for
paying just 17 per cent of its revenue to employees in wages and
benefits. The article, which suggested that doubling worker pay at
McDonald's would add just 68 cents to the cost of a Big Mac, quickly
circulated through the blogosphere, with critics framing the
revenue-to-wage ratio as a clear example of corporate greed.
As it turns out, the story, written by a University of Kansas
undergraduate student, was misleading since it excluded McDonald's
franchise stores, which employ the vast majority of McDonald's
employees. On average, fast food franchises pay about 30 to 35 per cent
of revenue in labor costs.
Given the outrage prompted by the initial story, however, it is worth
considering revenue-to-wage ratios in the socialist camp.
Andrés Oppenheimer reports that Cuba's Marxist-Leninist regime receives
the equivalent of USD $4,080 monthly from public coffers in Brasilia for
each Cuban doctor serving in Brazil's controversial Mais Medicos (More
The Cuban government does not disclose how much of the revenue from its
lucrative medical internationalism program goes to the doctors
themselves. However, based on the testimony of Cuban doctors who have
defected while working internationally the pay is estimated to average
between USD $250 and $300 monthly, or about 7 per cent of the total Cuba
receives from Brazil under the Mais Medicos program – a far cry from the
30 per cent share of profits that Fidel Castro proposed in his
"revolutionary laws" of 1953.
While Cuban doctors serving internationally may receive only a fraction
of the revenue generated by their labor, the remuneration is more than
what they would receive in Cuba, where doctors often earn less than taxi
drivers, who have access to foreign currency in the tourism industry.
The rapid expansion of the medical internationalism program, which now
outstrips tourism as Cuba's greatest source of revenue, has led to
concerns over increased wait times and decreased quality of care in
Cuba, reflecting the stagnation that occurs in planned economies, where
markets cannot self-adjust to changes in supply and demand.
Polls show the vast majority of Brazilians support Mais Medicos. But the
no-bid contract for the program, which was brokered by the Pan American
Health Organization, is under scrutiny for possible violation of
domestic and international labor codes. According to the National
Federation of Brazilian Physicians, the Cuban doctors amount to slave
labor. The Federation, itself a special interest lobby, has organized
protests against the program, including shaming campaigns against the
Other critics of the program have ruffled feathers for arguing that
Brazil is conspiring with a dictatorship. In his recent address to the
Brazilian Congress, Carlos Rafael Jorge Jiménez, a Cuban doctor now
living in Brazil who was expected to testify in support of Mais Medicos,
harshly criticized the program, demanding to know why the Cuban doctors
are not paid directly and why they cannot enter and leave Brazil at
will, or apply for political asylum.
At the end of the day, Cuba's medical internationalism program should be
seen as a litmus test for the depth of "progressive" concern over both
the revenue-to-wage ratio and labor issues more broadly.
If activists are correct to target the maquila industry in Mexico (as
elsewhere) for paying double the minimum wage, for example, one wonders
why these same activists have not raised concerns about the Mais Medicos
program, under which Cuban doctors receive less than the mandated
minimum wage of Brazil.
Similarly, if a fictitious 17 per cent revenue-to-wage ratio was deemed
scandalous for McDonald's, where is the outcry over a 7 per cent
revenue-to-wage ratio for Cuban doctors?
About Victoria L. Henderson
A former journalist and magazine editor, Henderson is a PhD Candidate
(ABD) at Queen's University and a managing director at the Institute for
Social and Economic Analysis in Ontario, Canada. She holds degrees in
Spanish & Latin American Studies and Geography. Follow @iseacanada.
Source: "Why Isn't Cuba Held to the Same Moral Standard as McDonald's?"