McDonald’s Not Sure How Its Workers Survive On Minimum Wage

A McDonald’s budget template for employees shows it takes roughly two full-time minimum wage jobs to scrape by.

The McDonald’s Monopoly game is back this week, but it’s kind of a bad time for the chain to be associated with play money.

Last month, a franchise employee quit and sued over being paid with a fee-heavy prepaid card. And now, “in what appears to have been a gesture of goodwill gone haywire,” The Atlantic says, a McDonald’s-Visa partnership has led to a financial planning site for the fast-food chain’s employees.

“Helping you succeed financially is one of the many ways McDonald’s is creating a satisfying and rewarding work environment,” its money management manual says. But according to the sample budget the manual provides, a McDonald’s employee would need not one but two full-time restaurant jobs to start saving $100 a month. The budget also assumes:

  • Rent or mortgage is $600 a month.
  • Health insurance is $20 a month, less than half of the most basic McDonald’s plan, The Atlantic says.
  • Employees don’t need to keep warm. (Heating bill budget: $0.)
  • Gas is free. (There’s a $150 budget line for a car payment and a $100 line for insurance, though.)

In other words, the sample budget is nowhere close to realistic. To find out the reality, CNN asked four real McDonald’s employees for their monthly budget breakdowns.

One is a college student working part time (25 hours a week) and living with his mom, CNN says. He makes $525 a month, spending $90 of that on bus fare to work and school and paying $250 toward rent. After food and other expenses there’s nothing left and he doesn’t have enough money to cover his tuition bill.

The income of two fathers, one of whom says he eats most meals at McDonald’s to save money, falls several hundred dollars short of meeting the monthly expenditures they describe, CNN says. The other employee works at two separate McDonald’s restaurants to get more hours. His monthly take-home pay is $610, though he has been employed by the chain for more than two decades.

McDonald’s employees aren’t eligible to win prizes in the chain’s Monopoly game, by the way.

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

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  • Reba Gilbert

    Why do people continue to eat at and support McDonald’s…..It is not necessarily only McDonald’s, (or any other fast food chain’s fault)…but also the fault of the consumer for participating in slavery…..US thought that died….well wake up….Slavery and poverty is alive and well in the US of A…..crossing all racial, religious, and gender lines. For some, ignorance is bliss….I am not blaming the government, but it could review and research minimum wage laws? What about corporate greed? Well the employees are agreeing to this arrangement…..Sounds messed up to me. Whatever happened to compassion?

  • cybrarian_ca

    The budget they showed had nothing for food, either. So I presume they think that their employees eat every meal at McDonalds. And rent of $600? I haven’t seen that, not even for a room in any city of any size, since 1984. I live in NYC – a rather unknown, slightly dumpy neighborhood in Brooklyn, not Manhattan – and the monthly rent I paid when I last rented (3 years ago – we bought a small converted fishing cottage since) a small 1 bedroom apartment for me, my husband, and our 2 cats was over $1600 – and that was considered cheap! That was not including heat, gas for the stove, electricity, phone service, storage (which was required), or cable or Internet – and yes, the latter 2 are essential for us, as my husband works from home at a job managing and editing a sports website, and he has to watch a lot of live sports (sometimes from other countries, so he can’t go personslly) on TV and then report on them. Add it all up, and those costs – not counting food or bus/subway fare – and it ate about 60% of our monthly $5000 income. One of the administrative assistants I work with lives on her own, and found a tiny studio for $900/month (not including phone, utilities, etc), but it’s in a neighborhood where you hear gunshots at night with some regularity. No thanks. I have no idea how fast food employees survive – though having read “Nickel and Dimed”, I have an idea. It was way easier to survive when I was in college, in the 80s and 90s. I quit patronizing any fast food chains, or Wal-Mart. I now spend my money at small independent local groceries, bakeries, and fruit/vegetable stands, of which there are several in my area. Their prices are very good – often even cheaper.

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