In Part 1 of this article, we looked at the recent controversy surrounding a holiday food drive Wal-mart held for its own underpaid employees. The food drive for needy employees seemed to acknowledge that the retail giant does not pay its workers a living wage. The term living wage is different from minimum wage. Minimum wage is the minimum hourly rate employers must pay employees as set by both federal and state law, while living wage refers to the minimum amount a person must earn per hour to meet basic needs in their geographic location. In certain places, the two figures do not match. According to the M.I.T. living wage calculator, the living wage in New York, NY is $12.75 compared to the current minimum wage of $7.25, and the living wage in Washington, D.C. is $13.67 compared to the minimum wage of $8.50. Over the past year, both Wal-mart and McDonald’s, two of the largest employers of low wage workers in the United States, have made headlines that seem to highlight the minimum and living wage disparity.
McDonald’s Headlines of 2013
Earlier this year, McDonald’s received criticism for a proposed budget plan published in its employee resource website. The budget required that minimum wage employees have two jobs, and allowed for only $20 per month for household health insurance costs and only $27 per day for food, clothing, and all other miscellaneous household expenses. Financial experts slammed the budget as drastically unrealistic and simply proof that McDonald’s employees cannot pay for basic needs on their hourly rate. Furthermore, McDonald’s actually suggested that employees apply for food stamps as soon as possible and turn their heat way down to cut utility costs.
McDonald’s recently came under fire again because of financial advice on its employee resources website, McResources. According to the advocate website, Low Pay is Not OK, McDonald’s had the following pieces of advice for its employees trying to make ends meet:
Return holiday gifts to help pay off debts
Break food into small pieces to feel full with less food
Sell possessions on websites such as Ebay and Craigslist for extra cash
Additionally, the McResources website gives employees advice on stress management. Their first suggestion was to take two vacations per year, which seems highly unrealistic for employees who must sell their possessions, forego holiday gifts, and eat less for financial survival. The final piece of advice for stress relief was to simply stop complaining in order to reduce stress hormones.
Both McDonald’s employees and employment activists find the advice on the McResources website to be insulting and a poorly masked attempt to convince employees that they earn a sufficient living wage working at the restaurant. Advocates state that companies like McDonald’s and Wal-mart set the standard for low-wage corporations and should be setting an example. If you believe that your employer is breaking wage and hour laws, contact an employment attorney at HKM as soon as possible.