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$15 minimum wage means layoffs: White Castle exec

Wednesday, 4 Dec 2013 | 5:14 PM ET
White Castle exec on minimum wage debate
Wednesday, 4 Dec 2013 | 4:27 PM ET
White Castle Vice President Jamie Richardson says if the minimum wage was raised to $15 per hour, this would result in closing more than 200 of the existing 406 restaurants.

A top executive at White Castle cooked up a spicy retort on Wednesday to calls by some fast-food workers to raise the minimum wage to $15 a hour from $7.25, arguing such an increase would force the hamburger chain to close nearly half of its locations and lay off thousands of workers.

(Read more: Fast-food strikes over minimum wage planned for 100 cities)

"To more than double the federally mandated starting wage wouldn't be bad for White Castle, it would be absolutely catastrophic," Jamie Richardson, vice president of White Castle, told CNBC's "Closing Bell" on Wednesday.

Such an increase would force the closure of more than 200 of its 406 locations across the United States, Richardson said, with any remaining locations "glowing embers. They would be dying stars."

Doubling the minimum wage is "beyond the fringe," Richardson continued, because it would be unsustainable and would result in teenage unemployment. He said White Castle is often able to retain those workers and boasted that 1 in 4 employees has been with the company for 10 years or more.

The average White Castle worker, not including management, makes 32 percent more than the minimum wage, he added.

Shared prosperity better for country: Krueger
How is the economy really doing? Alan Krueger, Princeton economics professor and former Council of Economic Advisers chair, says the economy is recovering from a deep recession at a modest pace.

Though Richardson had no appetite for a minimum wage increase, Princeton economist Alan Krueger told CNBC last week that President Barack Obama's plan to raise the minimum wage to $9 a hour from $7.25 would help the economy.

(Read more: Obama: Income inequality a defining challenge)

"I think our country will do a lot better if we have more shared prosperity," Krueger said.

"I think we're hurting opportunities for the next generation because the bottom half of the country has struggled so much over the past couple of decades," the former chairman of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers added. "Raising the minimum wage a modest amount, like the president proposed, helps lower-wage workers and I think that will be good for our economy."

—By CNBC's Drew Sandholm. Follow him on Twitter @DrewSandholm..

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