How We Talk About Low-Wage Workers

Sarah Jaffe has an opinion piece in The Washington Post about the way the labor strikes has been covered in the media—often not at all, or placing emphasis on poor, low-wage workers as "some exotic Other rather than our neighbors, our family members and ourselves."

How Many Order of French Fries Makes It Okay to Sit in a McDonald’s All Day?

For the past several months, a number of elderly Korean patrons and this McDonald’s they frequent have been battling over the benches inside. The restaurant says the people who colonize the seats on a daily basis are quashing business, taking up tables for hours while splitting a small packet of French fries ($1.39); the group say they are customers and entitled to take their time. A lot of time.

“Do you think you can drink a large coffee within 20 minutes?” David Choi, 77, said. “No, it’s impossible.”

Does buying a $1.39 order of french fries at a fast food restaurant give you the right to sit there all day? The Times reports that a McDonald’s in Queens, N.Y. has been exasperated with a group of elderly Korean patrons who have made the fast food restaurant their hangout space despite the availability of senior centers nearby—some geared specifically toward the elderly Korean community. When asked why they kept coming back to the McDonald’s, some of the elderly men could not explain why, though I’ve been around enough elderly people to know that they like their routines and can easily get stuck in their ways.

Paul Sableman

Wage Question, Dodged

Nancy Salgado, a single mother, asked McDonald's USA President Jeff Stratton if he thought it was fair that she earned $8.25 an hour working at McDonald's despite being there for 10 years. His response: "I've been there [at McDonald's] 40 years."

Living Wages and Big Macs

A student at the University of Kansas School of Business did a little financial modeling based on annual reports from McDonald's to see how much menu food items would rise in the theoretical case where employees were paid $15 an hour. The results: Big Macs would increase by 68 cents to $4.67, and items on the dollar menu would see price increases of 17 cents. Of course, this is theoretical, and an economics professor from the school calls it "a leap of faith" because that kind of wage increase would have huge, unforeseen effects (besides, you know, changing the lives of everyone who works at McDonald's).

Olympics Commercials, Ranked

I watched some ads.

Striking For Better Wages at McDonald’s

Fast food workers around the country are striking today, calling for the federal minimum wage to be increased to $15.

The Wages Have Gotten Too Low to Support a Family

James Surowiecki tackles the fast food low wage debate this week by looking at the shift in the American economy in the last few decades, the key thing being that fast food jobs were never considered the kind of jobs a person would take to support a family until fairly recently (fast food jobs were mostly dominated by teens who used the money to buy stuff and go to the movies). Manufacturing and factory jobs were where people used to go to find a job that paid a decent enough salary to raise a family, but as we've seen, those jobs are quickly disappearing while the retail and fast food business are now becoming America's biggest employers. They've done this by doing what they've always done—pay people low wages, and not keeping up with inflation (in 1968, the minimum wage was $10.70 in inflation-adjusted dollars).

West Tennessee and the Fast Food Strike

Branch's reporting covers a myriad of issues: What it's like to grow up in a town plagued by things like unemployment, substance abuse, racism, and teenage pregnancy.

Elderly Patrons Allowed to Stay at McDonald’s Except During Lunch

Basically, the group is free to meet and stay to socialize as long as they want, but not during the busy lunch hours.

How the Public is Subsidizing the Minimum Wage

Over at the Motley Fool, a popular investment news and tips site, Morgan Housel writes that adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage has declined by 30 percent over the course of 40 years, while the percentage of Americans on food stamps rose. This indicates, as we've noted previously, that the public is essentially subsidizing low-wage work.

Living on Fast Food Wages

The team at Mother Jones used data from the National Employment Law Project, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Economic Policy Institute's Family Budget Calculator (which I posted about last week) to calculate what it would take to earn a living in different metropolitan areas on fast food wages. The example I used below, is again based on the single mom with three children I spoke to. One thing that this calculator allows you to do that the family budget one didn't is to look at the data from the perspective of a single person.

‘Survival Should Not Be an Aspiration’

Sarah Kendzior, who previously wrote about unpaid internships at the U.N., has now tackled the McDonald's McBudget issue, arguing that the American Dream is not survival. It's a terrific piece.