Posted by: Donna
McDonalds has partnered with Visa to launch a website to help its low-wage workers making an average $8.25 an hour to budget. But while the site is clearly meant to illustrate that McDonalds workers should be able to live on their meager wages, it actually underscores exactly how hard it is for a low-paid fast food worker to get by.
The site includes a sample “budget journal” for McDonalds’ employees that offers a laughably inaccurate view of what it’s like to budget on a minimum wage job. Not only does the budget leave a spot open for “second job,” it also gives wholly unreasonable estimates for employees’ costs: $20 a month for health care, $0 for heating, and $600 a month for rent. It does not include any budgeted money for food or clothing.
Not so fast on that “second job”, though. Here’s McDonalds (again) featuring prominently in the zeitgeist of the One Percent:
Luce is a labor sociologist who studies union movements around the world. She co-authored, with the Retail Action Network, a study based on surveys of retail workers in New York, Discounted Jobs: How Retailers Sell Workers Short. “Managers are asked to schedule based on customer-flow, on weather, on trends in the economy, and to change the schedule day-to-day,” says Luce. “They don’t want employees that are going to say ‘I can’t come in, I have another job.’ They want employees that’ll say, ‘OK, I’ll come in if you need me. I won’t come in if you don’t need me.’”
You don’t have to go further than the nearest fast-food joint to see this trend. Devonte Yates is 21, and works at a McDonald’s in Milwaukee. He lives with his mother and little sister. Yates is getting an associate’s degree in criminal justice, so he’s paying tuition, a cell phone bill, plus rent to his mother and helping with the groceries. He’s paid minimum wage: $7.25 per hour. Yates’s bus ride to work takes 90 minutes, and costs him $4.50 round trip.
“The schedule comes out Fridays,” says Yates. “However, it is subject to change — at least that’s what’s written at the bottom of the schedule. Sometimes you can work a 1 p.m. to 9 p.m., and then the very next day have to be back at 6 in the morning. They schedule you so randomly that it’s pretty much impossible to find another job.”…
…There’s management-speak for this trend in on-call worker-scheduling expectations, says Stephanie Luce: ‘just-in-time scheduling.’
“I was just reading a retail consulting report,” says Luce, “that said this was the main area in which businesses could achieve profit — using labor-scheduling technologies. Employers want to reduce their cost. It was excess inventory in the ‘90s. And now it’s excess employment. This is a way for them to cut down on labor costs, and in theory shift it from a fixed cost to a variable cost that could shift with consumer demand.”
There is perhaps nothing that would more completely convey your boss’s tyranny over you than having to put your entire life on hold awaiting them to bid you to work. Yet this appears to be what many bosses are, in fact, doing these days. But again, there goes that “second job” that the benevolent budget-makers expect you to get to make that budget work.
Still, Timothy B. Lee of the Washington Post would like all you liberal meaniebutts to kindly refrain from mocking the budget that McDonalds and Visa so generously prepared for the benighted poors.
So the figures for heating and health insurance in the original Visa/McDonald’s sample budget are hard to defend. But overall, it offers a reasonable picture of how a typical person in the lower half of the income spectrum spends his money.
And the reality is that these low-income Americans have to make the kind of hard choices that critics are deriding as ridiculous. They have to make do with a used car, live in a modest apartment with a roommate, get by with basic cable and a low-end cellular plan, and travel and go out to eat infrequently.
Gawker calls the budget “just-shy-of-condescending,” but budgeting is an important skill that isn’t obvious to every young adult in America. Offering practical advice on how to live on a modest income is more constructive than ridiculing the choices required to do so.
Who the hell is he calling condescending? Timothy, being the clueless privileged honky that he is, probably only encounters working class people who are serving him in some capacity and is thus unfamiliar with them as actual human beings with lives who are able to make things work. They’re probably better at it than Timothy is. I guarantee the average single mom making $9 an hour can budget rings around Timothy. Poor families budget like nobody’s business. They have no choice in that. Being poor is ridiculously challenging and precarious and what poverty wage workers need is to earn a living wage, not be insulted with a budget produced by rich idiots who clearly assume everyone working at McDonalds is a teen living at home with his or her middle class parents.
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