Moral Low Ground


McDonald’s Tells Poverty-Wage Workers to Get Second Jobs, Turn off Heat

McDonald's workers protest their poverty wages. (Photo: Kara Newhouse/Flickr Creative  Commons)

McDonald’s workers protest their poverty wages. (Photo: Kara Newhouse/Flickr Creative Commons)

McDonald’s and Visa have launched a website advising the fast-food giant’s low-wage employees on how to survive on their meager earnings.

The McDonald’s-Visa Practical Money Skills for Life™ site contains a controversial Budget Journal that’s raising eyebrows because it implicitly acknowledges that McDonald’s employees, who according to earn an average of less than $7.75/hour in non-managerial positions, cannot survive by working just one job, even full-time.

The site’s ‘sample monthly budget’ included $1,105 in “first job” income– about what a minimum wage McDonald’s employee would earn from working full-time, 40-hour weeks. It lists $955 in “second job” income, which amounts to around an additional 32 hours of minimum wage work. So in order to meet the needs of McDonald’s sample budget, an employee would have to put in a 72-hour work week. That’s either 10 hours a day, seven days a week, or six 12-hour days.

What’s more, the ‘sample monthly budget’ originally allocated $0 in monthly heating costs, fine, perhaps, for employees residing in Hawaii, but extremely unrealistic for anyone living north of Fort Lauderdale. Someone at McDonald’s must have caught this glaring omission, for the site’s sample budget has been updated and now sets aside $50 for monthly heating bills.

McDonald's employee budget

The sample budget does not include any money for food, child care or clothing, although one can assume these expenses would fit under the $100 budgeted for ‘other’ expenses. A person eats about 90 meals in a typical month; under McDonald’s budget, those meals should cost no more than $1.11 each and employees should never buy any clothing or shoes.

The McDonald’s budget also only earmarks $20 a month for health insurance. According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, the average monthly health insurance premium for an individual US worker is $215. As CNNMoney reported in 2010, the most affordable medical plan at McDonald’s costs $14 per week, for $2,000 worth of annual coverage. That’s $56 a month for what Boston University health policy and management professor Alan Sager called “unacceptably inadequate” and “radically inferior” insurance.

“Knowing where your money goes and how to budget it is the key to your financial freedom,” the McDonald’s-Visa site asserts.

The legions of minimum wage workers who need second, even third, jobs to make ends meet might consider a living wage to be the key to their financial freedom.

In March, an analysis of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) data by Pulitzer Prize-winning tax policy journalist David Cay Johnston revealed that between 1966 and 2011, the average inflation-adjusted income of the bottom 90 percent of all US workers grew by just $59, while the average income of the top 10 percent of workers soared by $116,071. The average income of the top 0.01 percent grew by a staggering $18.4 million during the same period.

McDonald’s CEO, who earned $8.8 million last year, is part of that 0.01 percent. His income was 583 times that of a McDonald’s employee earning minimum wage and working full-time, 40-hour weeks all year with no vacation. According to Bloomberg Business Week, the average McDonald’s employee would have to work a million hours– or 114 years– to earn as much as the company’s CEO makes in a year.

While McDonald’s profits soared 135% between 2007 and 2011 and the company paid a whopping $6 billion in dividends and stock buybacks in the last fiscal year, employee wages have all but stagnated. One Illinois McDonald’s employee who’s been with the company for 20 years, for example, is still earning minimum wage.

Fast-food workers, including McDonald’s employees, across America have recently begun to stage demonstrations, strikes and walkouts to protest their poverty wages.

Such low wages are a significant part of the reason why one out of every six Americans is living in poverty. That’s more than 46 million people– more than the combined populations of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.

According to the United Nations, the United States ranks 52nd in the world in income equality, just below Senegal and just above Cambodia.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Related Posts


  1. wildJuly 19, 2013 at 3:20 pmReply

    Easy there Brett, I downloaded the McD_Journal2.pdf. and it shows $50 in the heating expense column and a few different subtotals because of that heating expense entry than the pix shown in this article. Perhaps because of this story the expenses have been updated to now include heat?

    I think the point, continues to glare regardless the actual expenses used, because the net income is just another minimum wage story that has become normal practice in this country. American Airlines (D/FW airport, TX) & Schneider National (trucking, Green Bay, WI)could easily be another example of corporate cutthroatism, at the expense of the non-mgmt. employee. The management strategies that vacuum employees of any dignity on a daily basis have taken obscene advantage of lax laws, non-union employees status is a common thread that was made manifest by the likes of Presidents & Congress members, & many others of countless ‘well meaning’ leaders.

    I will spare you my full opinion at this time, of such cutthroat practices which have become the mainstream strategy of corporate profits produced from slavery/irresponsible management style. It isn’t ‘enough’ to import goods & services from other cutthroat countries, it is only enough when the cutthroat practice unnecessarily rides roughshod over all in this land and other diverse places..

    It might be also interesting to know that these wages are often the responsibility of the local franchise owners, they are the actual cutthroats that reside all across this United States of Pet Owners. I would like to see those actual owners/employer’s business names identified along with ‘the generic’ corporate name like McDonald’s. In northern Arkansas there is a company (McDonald’s franchise owner) Buckliew Enterprises of Heber Springs, AR., that practices daily cutthroat strategies (generally) such as: no full time non-mgmt. employees, no holiday pay (even if you work), no vacation time or vacation pay after 1 year (because of your part-time status, which is the strategy/excuse), no paid 15 minute breaks {a 15 minute break is not required by AR state law} (you can punch out for lunch, other wise you get no break)…this is just a few broad examples of WHO the real culprit is in this sad game.

    I don’t think these sad local cutthroats should go unnoticed.


  2. firstboomerJuly 23, 2013 at 8:30 amReply

    No one other than affected employees apparently knows this about WalMart so I repeat this wherever possible:

    WalMart pays a semi-annual bonus to employees based on the individual’s earnings and their store’s profits. This can be as much as a couple-hundred dollars every six months to a full-time, minimum-wage employee whose been an employee for a year or more. Nice, BUT, when a store undergoes an upgrade, such as to a super-center, or a renovation, which is done at least every 5 years, NO bonuses are given regardless of employee productivity, increases in sales, or profit net of the upgrade, until the cost of the upgrade is recouped. Therefore, the cost of improvements, which increase the corporation’s, and thus the shareholder’s, net worth, is borne on the backs of the employees!

    The Walton heirs own the majority of shares and are as a result worth more than the 150 million lowest net worth U.S. individuals COMBINED. This is one glaring way the richest individuals in the world squeeze the poorest U.S. workers even when what they take is, to the Walton’s, inconsequential compared to what they already have. There is really no rational excuse for taking-away productive, hard-working employee’s bonuses, which can be critical to impoverished employees.

    Please pass along this little-known information.

    • Brett WilkinsJuly 26, 2013 at 10:47 amReplyAuthor

      Thanks for that insight– indeed, I knew nothing about this. Can’t say I’m surprised, though!

  3. KarenAugust 1, 2013 at 11:03 amReply

    What planet do they live on? $90 for heat for a month? $600 for rent/mortgage? Health insurance $20???? Guess they’re supposed to starve because there isn’t anything listed for food, etc. – unless that’s under “other”, which would amount to $25 per week for food. Unbelievable! Does the person who made this list live on their own and try to survive on those numbers? What a joke!

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Douche Du Jour
  • GOP Congressman Robert Pittenger Says Charlotte Protesters ‘Hate White People Because They’re Successful’
  • Israel Nominates Col. Eyal Karim, Who Endorsed Rape of Non-Jews to ‘Boost Troop Morale,’ for Chief Military Rabbi
  • The Hateful 8: Anti-Gay Christian Leaders Praise Orlando Massacre
  • Koch Brother’s Youth Education Program Teaches ‘Sacrificing Lives for Profits’
  • Tracy Murphree, GOP Texas Sheriff Candidate, Threatens to Beat Transgender Women Unconscious