workers freedom

economics as if workers mattered

How to live on minimum wage

Faced with a wave of strikes by fast food workers and growing pressure to raise the minimum wage, McDonald’s and other low-wage employers have decided to lend a helping hand to their workers. Not by raising wages or offering benefits, no; the bosses are offering something far more valuable: instruction in financial planning.

The problem, you see, is that those with very little money never learned how to handle the money they don’t have. So McDonald’s has partnered with VISA to teach their workers how to make a budget. With determination, they can save their paltry wages and earn enough to buy a McDonald’s franchise!

Except that it turns out the well-trained financial advisers given this task found it too difficult. In order to put together a sample budget that made sense (even cutting expenses to the bone), they were forced to have their hypothetical workers put in 75 to 80 hours a week. Since McDonald’s would never schedule workers that way (then they’d have to pay overtime, which would mess up the entire profit-making scheme), they slot workers for a second job. Then, after doubling the income by doubling the work day and nickel-and-diming the expenses, they managed to come up with a budget which would enable their hypothetical sleep-deprived wage slave to save enough for a rainy day. (As long as there were only one or two of those rainy days; there’s not much slack here.)

You can see a video on one McDonald’s worker’s response to this nonsense here. (You can also see the scissorbill mentality at work if you scroll down past the initial comments.) Rather than taking two jobs to try to make ends meet (even were that possible for most of us, given the unemployment situation — ignoring the toll on our bodies and the difficulty of juggling schedules), we’d do far better to work less. With shorter hours, the bosses would be forced to turn over some of the massive productivity gains they’ve been redirecting into profits, sky-high managerial salaries and other parasitism, and we’d have some time to live our lives.

UPDATE: Mike Elk reports on a health & safety strike by McDonald’s workers in New York, which began after a worker collapsed in the kitchen (and was taken to hospital in an ambulance) during the current heat wave. The air conditioner had broken.


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