By Paul Moomjean 08/08/2013
Bill Maher once said, “Isn’t the point of working at a fast-food place to know you don’t want to work there forever?” That quote needs to be tweeted across America, because in late July a group of McDonald’s strikers in Lower Manhattan decided enough was enough and that their $7.25 an hour rate should be $15 an hour. Will they do more work? Will they have more responsibilities? Will they produce McNuggets at a faster rate? The answer is no. They simply want more money for existing.
In fact, six other U.S. cities are seeing picketing as well. In each area, the argument the same —life is too darn expensive and the workers want more money, well, just ’cause.
Shanell Young of New York says paying for herself and her 5-year-old son has reached the boiling point. She makes $7.25 an hour.
“It’s horrible,” says Young. “Everything goes up. It’s unfair. You can’t find an apartment. You can’t pay for children’s school uniforms. Everything is unfair. We can’t live off this.”
McDonald’s responded with a helpful 27-page budget pamphlet for its workers that encouraged them to find secondary work if they wanted to pay the rent. The document advises using public transportation, paying down debt quickly and using the library as the entertainment source instead of buying books and renting movies or going to the theater.
I applaud McDonald’s for giving its workers an honest breakdown of how to make working at McDonald’s work for them. Someone has to.
Minimum-wage jobs are for what we call “non-skilled labor.” These jobs are meant for teenagers and college students who are pursuing their educations and plan to move out of burgers and fries and into banking and teaching. Not for “lifers.” McDonald’s provides an opportunity to move from blue collar to white collar. It’s a temporary position, not a lifestyle.
Sadly, many of these workers didn’t get that memo, so they got the McDonald’s memo instead. Like 27-year-old Stephen Warner of New York:
“While I’m making $7.25, my money can’t take me anywhere. The price of living is going up it seems every day,” said Warner. “I appreciate the opportunity to work. But I want them to consider how much I make and ask [themselves] if they could live off of it.”
At 27 years old, shouldn’t Warner have moved past minimum-wage jobs? I understand life is hard and not all our dreams are fulfilled; but at 27, Warner really should have a degree, a $40,000-a-year job and be working toward moving upward at a decent corporation, if not starting his own business by now.
Back in November of 2012, this war on minimum wage started with the Fast Food Forward movement. People like Warner joined with other unskilled workers to unite against the profits of their fast-food corporations. This recent surge is round two of an unsuccessful fight.
Ironically, many of these workers will not be replaced by more grateful employees, but in a science fiction-esque twist, by machines. According to NPR, Michael Saltsman, who is research director at the Employment Policies Institute, says the future will be touch screens.
“There are a number of chains here in the U.S. who are experimenting with electronic menus where you can order on an iPad-type device; you can pay on that device,” says Saltsman. “These are changes that happen in direct response to higher labor costs.”
You see, it’s not hard to work at McDonald’s. I’ve worked those jobs. Those were low-paying jobs because my skills were low and anyone could do what I did. These people are about to strike their jobs out of existence due to their lack of initiative.
Essentially, our self-esteem-first society has produced a nation of uneducated, unmotivated, ungrateful and entitled citizens who believe their ability to warm up precooked food should put them at the same level as those who got their degrees, earned their stripes and climbed the corporate ladder.
I know it’s hard, but in America it’s possible. With online school, FASFA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), and government loans, many of these strikers could start pulling themselves up.
It might be hard, but hard work is “hard.” Because if it were easy, they’d call it “easy.”