A Fast Food Worker Confronts Her CEO

Most workers don’t even know who runs their company, much less have the opportunity to see meet their boss face-to-face — and scold him. But one McDonald’s employee boldly did just that a couple of weeks ago, as reported by AOL News:

For Nancy Salgado, it at least got her a dismissive answer and alleged threat of being arrested when the McDonald’s cashier publicly shamed chain CEO Jeff Stratton, and she doesn’t know whether she’ll pay with her job. So why do it?

According to a video interview she gave to TheRealNews.com, it’s because she’s at her wit’s end. “Sometimes I can’t provide a gallon of milk” for her two kids, the single mother said. After ten years of working for the company since she was 16, she claims to have never received a raise, still earning $8.25 for between 30 and 40 hours a week.

According to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator, the living wage for a single adult with two children in Cook County, which includes Chicago, is $25.51 an hour, while $8.80 an hour would be considered a poverty wage. Minimum wage in the state is $8.25 an hour.

Stratton was speaking at the Union League Club of Chicago, whose website states that the organization “enriches members lives and improves the world by creating extraordinary opportunities for camaraderie, personal enrichment and meaningful community involvement.”

“I’m a single mother of two. It’s really hard for me to feed my two kids and struggle day to day,” Salgado said in the video. “Do you think this is fair that I have to be making $8.25 when I’ve been working at McDonald’s for 10 years?”

Stratton answered, “I’ve been there 40 years,” getting some applause from the audience according to a Chicago Tribune report. Stratton, 57 reportedly started at McDonald’s as a teenager at $1.60 an hour, held various positions in the company, and assumed the top role in 2005.

Of course, times have changed immensely since then, with there being few opportunities for upward mobility; after all, there are only so many managerial and administrative positions relative to the much larger pool of entry-level work.

However, an organization like McDonald’s has relatively few management positions when compared to the number of line workers. And a recent report by the National Employment Law Project says that today’s fast food worker has “virtually no chance of advancement” in the field.

Furthermore, there are few alternatives: most of the new jobs that have emerged since the end of the recession have been in low-paying industries like retail, fast food, and hospitality, none of which tend to offer much in the way of stable and upwardly-mobile employment.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 2.9 million food preparation and serving workers, which includes fast food. The average hourly wage is $9, with half of workers making less than $8.78 an hour.

Although often defended as entry-level jobs for younger people, statistics suggest that fast food work has become an adult occupation, with a median age of 28, about one in four that have at least one child. In addition, like Salgado, many do not receive full-time employment, meaning that their economic plights are even worse.

When adjusted for inflation, the picture is even grimmer. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, fast food wages in real terms have been dropping steadily since 2009. Any degree of economic recovery the country has seen has not translated into an improvement.

Indeed, competition has done little to help matters, since almost every company operates in more or less the same way (e.g. there is little difference in prospects between Burger King, McDonald’s, or any number of other fast food companies). Despite the high demand for this sort of work — as evidenced by all the job growth — wages remain low simply because there’s a large enough pool of desperate people willing to take what they can get. Thus, companies have little incentive to offer better pay, treatment, or benefits — even though they can well afford to do so in light of record-breaking profits. So much for social responsibility.

And before anyone argues that people like Salgado should find a better job or seek an education to improve her prospects, bear in mind just how expensive and time consuming it is to do either nowadays — how is someone trying to raise a family going to be able to train or learn for a new job? Where will they get the money? And how many good positions are available given the large pool of people clamoring to take them? Entry-level work is basically all there is, and as long as companies no longer offer decent raises or promotions, that’s all there will be.

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