The news was full of items about wages this past month. First up, let’s talk McDonalds, shall we? They were in the news for a couple of reasons this past month. First, they put out a sample budget that apparently was meant to help someone working for them for minimum wage. It certainly sheds some light on the thought processes at work in the multi-billion-dollar-profit corporation. First and foremost, the budget assumes two jobs, the first one presumably being a full-time minimum wage job at Mickey D’s. The monthly net income of $1050 is a little hard to swallow, though. That would be about the amount left from a full-time (40 hours per week) minimum wage job after payroll and Medicare taxes are deducted. But many minimum wage employees at McDonald’s and other fast food franchises have a hard time getting full-time schedules. The second job nets almost as much per month. So really we’re talking about McDonald’s suggesting its workers work 2 full time jobs here. This is already unrealistic. Since these types of jobs have shifting and unpredictable schedules, the probability of managing to juggle two of them full-time is what we economists like to call very low.
But let’s assume that this sort of balancing act is doable. What does this mean for the person doing these two jobs? Let’s do some simple math, shall we? There are 168 hours in every week (that’s 7 days times 24 hours). Two full time jobs add up to 80 hours per week on the job. That leaves 88 hours per week to do the fun things in life, like sleep (the doctor-recommended sleeping time is about 56 hours per week: 7 days times 8 hours), bathe and eat. Also commuting to your low-wage-paying but super-helpful-with-your-budgeting job. And also that other job. Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time to see your kids when you retire. Of course, at $2000 a month, you’ll never be able to retire. OK! Moving on!
So what else is in the budget. Healthcare? You bet! The health insurance line item is $20 per month. Got that? Let me repeat it for you. The health insurance line item is $20 per month. Does this need further explanation from me? It apparently does need further explanation at McDonald’s. If you’re listening, McDonalds, healthcare even though it will be more affordable when the Affordable Care Act goes into full operation, will still cost more than $20 per month. McDonalds’ own cheapest option for their employees is over $50 a month (and that’s not a family plan, I’m guessing).
As the Forbes writer Laura Shin points out, there are no line items for child care, gas, groceries or clothing. But come ON. There is a line labelled “other” that is $100 a month. Take THAT Laura Shin! Also, please let our readers know where they can find quality childcare for less than $100 per month. Also, how to become breatharians. (On a side note, PLEASE DO NOT ATTEMPT TO LIVE ON AIR ALONE! YOU WILL DIE!!). Thanks for the help, crazy McDonald’s Human Resources person.
We’re not done with McDonalds, yet. Though we’re now talking about fast food workers in general (not just those that work at McDonalds), a lot of the coverage has focused on McDonalds because of the whole budget thing and because they are the symbol of fast food in this country. This past month, in a continuation of a campaign by Fast Food Forward, an organization that is attempting to organize fast food workers in large cities around the country, fast food workers staged one day strikes throughout the country. There was not much coverage of this story in the news. Their demands are simple: $15 an hour. That’s twice the current minimum wage of course. But, $15 an hour would mean that the target of McDonalds poverty budget could work just one job and still get the meager take home pay represented by that budget. That would still be a huge improvement for workers at those restaurants, who often do not get full-time hours even at their current low pay. What would this mean to you, gentle readers? If you eat at McDonalds, you would see a very small price increase, even if you assume that all of the extra cost is passed along to you in higher prices. Economic studies of minimum wage increases in fast food restaurants have shown that not all of the increase is passed on, though. How’s this for a crazy idea: the company could take smaller profits. You probably NEVER hear that if someone’s talking about the minimum wage. Except someone like your humble narrator, of course.
Won’t a higher minimum wage ruin everything forever, though? There is a compelling case that it will not. An interesting case was made by Nick Hanauer (one of those intertewbz entrepreneurs) in Bloomberg News, of all places. Summing up, he says “Raising the earnings of all American workers would provide all businesses with more customers with more to spend.” This is just common sense. It is also one of the rare cases where economic logic and common sense coincide.