Where Work Is Headed—Addendum 1

Shortly after I made yesterday’s post, I received an e-mail from the group trying to galvanize broader support for higher pay for workers at McDonald’s and other fast-food restaurants: http://lowpayisnotok.org/mcdonalds/?utm_campaign=LowPay&utm_medium=email&utm_source=McDonalds.

At the center of the page is a link to a video at the McDonald’s corporate website, ostensibly provided as a service to their employees and implicitly presenting the case that the solution to those employees’ financial issues is not higher hourly pay but better personal budgeting skills.

Below that link is a reproduction of the video, with the most paternalistic, self-serving, simply ridiculous, and inconsistent elements annotated.

But before you look at the video, here are a couple of facts about fast-food workers that may surprise you:

About 3 million people, roughly equivalent to the population of Mississippi, are employed by fast-food restaurants.

Only 16% of fast-food workers are teenagers, down from about 25% in 2000.

The median age for fast-food workers is between 28 and 29.

Female workers constitute about two-thirds of the fast-food workforce.

The median age for female fast-food workers is 32.

More than 42% of fast-food workers over the age of 25 have attended college.

About 750,000 fast-food workers (one out of four) have baccalaureate degrees.

Almost all fast-food workers make less than $10 per hour, or no more than $2.00 per hour above the minimum wage.

In inflation-adjusted terms, the minimum wage in 2012 was worth about 30% less than what it was worth in 1970.

In a recent survey of fast-food workers, 84% of the respondents reported some experience with employer “wage theft.”

Between 2009 and 2012, McDonald’s has reported a 130% increase in profits, and Yum! Brands, which operates KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell has reported a 45% increase in profits.

There is no way of telling how many fast-food workers are “part-time” by choice because, like big-box retailers, the restaurants typically limit hours to limit the number of employees eligible to receive benefits, and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act is very likely to make somewhat less than 30 hours per week the industry-wide standard.

Again, as is the case with many employees of the big-box retailers, the American taxpayer is supplementing the wages of most low-wage workers, through the food-stamp and other “safety-net” programs, and providing for the healthcare that the employers do not provide to most of their employees, through Medicaid. I have not been able to find an industry-wide study for that cost for fast-food workers or for the employees of the big-bog retailers. But a recent study has shown that Walmart workers account for more than $2 billion in “safety net” spending each year.

About a decade ago, the phrase the “McDonaldization of higher education” was coined. When one compares the hours, compensation, lack of benefits and contingency of fast-food workers and adjunct faculty, the comparisons seem an especially damning indictment of higher education since almost all adjunct faculty have graduate degrees.

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