The standard riposte to arguments like the one in the article is "well, then someone would pay their workers better and make more money, and those firms would come to dominate."
The response to the response is something like, "managers are being paid in non-pecuniary status benefits via underpaying their underlings, in a way that reduces total firm output, and there are coordination & principal/agent problems in getting management to agree not to be compensated in this way".
Not only would they, they do. Google, Apple, Facebook, Wall St etc pay people well, and are very profitable. However, paying more allows an employer to hire different workers.
Paying the same people more is completely different.
If you hire knowledge workers and pay them the bare minimum living costs, they will struggle in their personal lives.
They'll have to do things themselves that they could otherwise pay professionals to do, they'll have longer commutes, or if they're a miserly type they'll be dissatisfied with the feeling of 'working to live' rather than to build for the future.
That holds whether they're rockstars or barely capable of doing the job. Up to a point, paying too little is like running your car with diluted fuel.
In the past I've had jobs with a low salary that were fine until the workload increased.
When that happens, the shortcuts that you could take on a high wage (flat instead of house share, living closer to work, paying for lunch rather than making it, owning and running a car, laundry/ironing in a customer facing environment, etc ...) are not possible. Sleep, diet, exercise start to suffer.
That's the real issue in my mind - some employers just seem blinded to the fact that they're pushing people away. It doesn't matter how loyal an employee is - humans have running costs (both in terms of time and money), and employment adds to those running costs.
Your intentional exaggeration aside, I would be very surprised if most Trader Joe's and Starbucks employees didn't have some college.
To the extent that there is classism, it is in the people at Trader Joe's and Starbucks doing hiring, and the customers that these companies cater to when they making these hiring decisions. Not me for documenting the facts.
The American variant of classism is more amusing than average to be sure.
That may be true, but managers are also paid in a way that hurts them directly if they reduce the firm's value like that (options, equity). So then it becomes a question of which effect dominates, and it seems like a highly extraordinary claim to say that the "non-pecuniary status benefit" comes out on top.
Perhaps there's a systematic bias that causes managers to think they're maximizing value by underpaying workers, even if they aren't really.
This assumes that workers, firms, and managers are all economically rational agents. Doing so not only overlooks all the findings of behavioral economics and social psychology, but also ignores the major role of ideology in shaping the modern workplace. People mistreat workers because they take their thinking on labor relations from an ideologically-tinted worldview in which you have to mistreat workers to make the economy go -- whether it's conforming to the archetypes has nothing to do with whether it's economically rational.
Software patents, non-competes and NDAs often prevent this. I suppose that is the point of all of them.