Even McDonald's knows that its workers can't survive on what it pays, according to a group of fast-food workers fighting for fair wages.
The fast-food giant added a tool to its website that allows its employees to create a monthly budget based on their income and expenses. While the tool may theoretically seem helpful, members of the group Low Pay Is Not OK point out some disturbing assumptions and omissions from the sample employee budget.
To start, the tool assumes that employees using it will have to cobble together incomes from at least two jobs to earn a little more than $24,500 per year -- what the budget claims it takes to make ends meet. That translates to roughly $12.80 per hour after taxes, assuming a 40-hour work week, which Low Pay Is Not OK claims is far more than the $7 or $8 an hour that most fast-food workers make.
In an emailed statement sent to The Huffington Post, Director of Media Relations Danya Proud wrote that the sample budgets on the website are "intended to provide a general outline of what an individual budget may look like.”
The average food service worker made just $18,130 in 2010, or slightly more than $9 per hour, assuming they work 40 hours per week and take two weeks off for vacation, according to the Labor Department.
Even if a fast-food employee working two jobs were to bring home $24,000 per year total -- what the McDonald's budget claims it takes to survive -- it's likely that wouldn't actually be enough. In coming up with the $24,000 number, McDonald's still had to leave out a series of very necessary expenses from its budget like food, gas, water, clothing and child care, Low Pay Is Not OK notes. There's also no room for retirement savings.
To top it all off, the expenses that McDonald's allows employees to budget for are based on some pretty low cost estimations. For healthcare, the company's tool allots just $20 per month and it suggests workers set aside just $600 for housing, which Low Pay Is Not OK calls unreasonable given the high cost of living in some cities like New York City.
Are you a fast-food worker who can't afford to live on the salary provided to you by your employer? We want to hear from you. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org
UPDATE: This story has been updated to include a statement from McDonald's.
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McDonald's Grew During The Recession
McDonald's had <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2009/08/who_won_the_recession.html" target="_hplink">higher sales growth in 2008</a> than in 2006 or 2007, opening nearly 600 stores that year, according to Slate. The chain was able to take advantage of Americans' recession tastes: Cheap, convenient food.
They Handle Food That Isn't Really Food
One <a href="http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/w2sv3/fast_food_workers_of_reddit_what_is_the_one_menu/" target="_hplink">Reddit user claiming to be an ex-McDonald's worker</a> said he once left a bag of chicken nuggets out on the counter for too long and "they melted. Into a pool of liquid." That didn't stop him from loving the nuggets, "still delicious," he wrote.
Fast Food Companies See Huge Profits On The Backs Of Low-Wage Workers
More than <a href="http://www.nelp.org/page/-/Press Releases/2012/PR_MinWageCorpProfits.pdf?nocdn=1" target="_hplink">60 percent of low-wage workers</a> are employed by big corporations, according to a July analysis by the National Employment Law Project. And more than 90 percent of those companies were profitable last year.
The Average Pay For A Fast Food Worker In New York City Is $9 Per Hour
Fast food workers in New York City make an <a href="http://blogs.villagevoice.com/forkintheroad/2012/11/fast_food_forward_strike_nyc.php" target="_hplink">average of $9 per hour</a>, according to the Village Voice. That comes to about $18,500 per year for full-time workers.
Fast Food Workers Are Unlikely To Get Paid Sick Days
For 40 percent of private sector workers, <a href="http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2012-11-28/news/bs-ed-sick-leave-20121128_1_sick-days-care-workers-service-workers" target="_hplink">taking a sick day</a> and still getting paid isn't an option, according to the Baltimore Sun. Fast food workers are especially likely to be part of that 40 percent.
The Boss Can Threaten To Take Workers' Health Care Away
Many fast food workers saw their health benefits put at risk this year, if they even had them at all. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/09/papa-johns-obamacare-john-schnatter_n_2104202.html" target="_hplink">Papa John's CEO John Schnatter</a> said he would likely reduce some of his workers hours so that he wouldn't have to cover them in response to Obamacare. Jimmy John's founder, Jimmy John Liautaud told Fox News in October that <a href="http://www.foxnews.com/on-air/your-world-cavuto/2012/10/16/jimmy-johns-founder-business-owners-unsure-future" target="_hplink">he would "have to" cut workers' hours</a> so that he wasn't forced to cover them under Obamacare.
The Average Hourly Pay At Many Fast Food Eateries Is Less Than $8 An Hour
The average hourly pay at McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King and Taco Bell is less than $8 an hour, according to <a href="http://www.cnbc.com/id/50015355" target="_hplink">salary data cited by CNBC</a>.
The Median Age Of A Fast Food Worker Is 28
As more workers fight for limited jobs, many older employees are gravitating towards the fast food industry. The median age of a fast <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/11/mcjobs-should-pay-too-its-time-for-fast-food-workers-to-get-living-wages/265714/" target="_hplink">food worker is 28</a>, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data cited by the Atlantic. For women, who make up two-thirds of the industry's employees, that age is 32.
Labor Leaders Rarely Try To Unionize Fast Food Workers
Fast food worker's went on strike in late November in New York City, showcasing a rare effort to organize the industry's workers. Labor leaders often don't make an effort to organize these workers because the high turnover makes the challenge daunting.
Fast Food Workers Are The Lowest Paid Workers In NYC
For all their work, fast food workers get very little dough. The lowest paid job category in New York City is "Combined Food Service and Preparation Workers, Including Fast Food," according to Bureau of Labor Department Statistics <a href="http://www.salon.com/2012/11/29/in_rare_strike_nyc_fast_food_workers_walk_out/" target="_hplink">cited by Salon</a>.