McDonalds and the working poor

It’s just after the lunch rush at McDonalds on a Friday in Wasilla, Alaska.

Things are calming down for the small battalion of worker in various blues, oranges, pinks and collared shirts that make up the “free uniform” garb.

I am sitting in the first booth, the one that is closest to the only plug in the resturant, pecking away at the keyboard on my MacBook Pro. I am working on articles for my various websites and blogs and hope to one day finish one of the three books I’m working on.

Directly behind me is a group of McDonalds employees with envelopes in their hands.

It’s payday at McDonalds.

I overhear the group saying:

“My check is 176.80.”
“Mine is 183.”
“This is the most I have ever made,” says a young man well into his twenties, “mine is 199.18!”

As I try to mind my own business, this conversation brings up myriad questions.

The first being is how do these people, most of them look old enough to be out of their parents home’s by now, live on a paycheck of less than 200 a week?

That has to be WELL below poverty level. Especially in a state as expensive as Alaska.

Sure, McDonalds as a company prides itself on giving many folks a chance to have their first jobs. I’m sure they do a great job at training their employees many valuable job skills that they will use later in life.

But at what expense?

My son, Kyle, worked at McDonalds several years ago and I heard the stories. One being the constant shift in schedules. One week working at 4 am to 10 am. The next 6 pm to midnight, and so on.

On several occasions Kyle would be sent home because it was “slow” or he was the lowest in the seniority ranks.

But the question that perplexes me the most is why do they have to have 20 people working at once? Why do they have have an employee roster of 40 or even 50 with none of them except the mangers working full-time.

If they do offer health insurance and other benefits how can these employees contribute to them? I am guessing they are not free. How can someone justify contributing to a 401K when they take home less than two tanks of gas in Alaska?

Yes, we have all heard the stories of the McDonalds franchisee that used to be a crew member. Or the kid that paid his way through college working at the hamburger chain.

But I will never forget what my dad used to tell me:

“Stay in school or you will find yourself flipping burgers.”

Wise advice? I think so.

I can only hope that for this group that is behind me discussing their paycheck, that this job is just one of those stepping stones to a better career.

But if not, I doubt very seriously any of them can afford to go out to the movies tonight.

Have you worked at McDonald’s and have a story to share? I would love to hear about it.