Wendy McDonald Can Barely Afford a Burger King

by on September 2, 2013 · 15 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Economy, Labor, Organizing

wendyBy Bob Dorn

Debby, or Debra, Flores is 20 and has a 2-year-old daughter. She works at Wendy’s downtown, First and Broadway from 11 am to 3 p.m. only four days a week, which means she’s part-time and enjoys no company benefits. She makes $8 per hour from the Wendy’s she’s part of. So, during the week at Wendy’s she’s making $32 a day, taking home $128.00 per week, less taxes.

She pays taxes because she has ANOTHER job at a hookah lounge delivering food and tobacco starting at 7 pm and continuing through the night to 6 am.

Think of it. This slight, lean young girl human on a typical day of the week puts in 15 hours of work a day, commutes to her mother’s home and spends just about 3 hours a day with her child, starting at 3 pm. Sometimes, on a good day, she grabs maybe five hours of sleep, if she can sleep.

“It’s a big challenge,” she says, with a shrug. Her mother, with whom she lives, takes care of the baby. If it weren’t for that, Debby would be at home, fulfilling the prophesies of trickle-down Republicans who believe those damned minorities are just welfare cheats.

She was one of of some 90 to 100 demonstrators outside her own employer’s restaurant on Thursday, just two or three minutes’ walk from the centers of governmental power in San Diego, the County Courthouse and City Hall, taking part in the national strike/demonstration against fast food megaliths like Burger King and McDonalds. They’re asking for a 33% raise from the typical $9 per hour salary to $15 per hour.

Outside Wendy’s yesterday the crowd of some 100 got occasional beeps from passing cars… WooHoos erupting from the demonstrators each time.

A UPS delivery guy worked his way through the crowd, joining them in the chant:

“Listen Up, Wendy’s/Don’t Be Mean/Support Your Workers/Fight for 15.”

He got a big round of applause.

A clerk in the records office might have passed by Debby to get her Wendy’s ¾ pounder with cheese and fries that day for $7.99, perhaps not giving much of a thought to the expenditure. We seem to tolerate the thought that a young woman with a kid could deliver up to 25 or 30 burgers in an hour before she could pay for the one she could eat for lunch. If she did pay for that burger, she’d lose 25% of her day’s pay.

The remarkable thing about the young workers I spoke to was their lack of any bitterness about the low wages their employers are paying.

Like Debby, 22-year-old Diego Rios worked two jobs trying to keep himself afloat, but says he quit his job with AT&T because he was so much more comfortable working for the McDonalds at Park Blvd. and A Street, across from City College.

“I love people who work at McDonalds. They’re all honest, hardworking people, where at AT&T the hours were great and the pay was good (he sold plans and phones at kiosks and stores) but they were really oriented around sales, and were super competitive.

“There was very little friendship among the employees, and the times there weren’t people in the story they’d spend watching television or at their computers. I like honest work.

“And it just got too hard working two jobs, more than 40 hours per week.”

A friend of Debby’s who’s known her since high school, Yasmin Silva, also 20, works a similar schedule at the Wendy’s, says her friend “really struggles. She can’t do anything but work and sleep and spend 3 hours a day with her baby.”

Yasmine has her own problem.

“I have an illness, so I can’t really do anything but work; I have to pay for my drugs.” She has a relatively rare form of diabetes, tagged insipidus, which forces her to travel to Tijuana regularly to buy her specific medications at more affordable prices.

“I take the trolley (she lives with her boyfriend, downtown) to the border, usually after I get out of work at 3 pm, and I don’t get back until about 8 pm.

She thinks her pal, Debby, has a tougher time of it.

Just for the record, Forbes reported at the end of last month that Wendy’s posted an unexpected profit of 3 cents per share, with revenue up $650.5 million, which led the company to declare a 25% increase in dividends to shareholders.

Reasonable people might figure that leap in profits could help the company give its workers a part of those profits.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Tom September 3, 2013 at 8:56 am

Full disclosure, I’m a registered Republican and very conservative so this is how one conservative sees all of this.
The single mother – where is the father? You opened your legs now accept responsibility including holding the father responsible. No sympathy.

22 year old Diego Rios – grow up young man. Competition is a huge part of life so start acting like a man. You will find to get ahead you will have to compete. Even a job interview is a competition.

Mc Ds, Wendy’s, CJs, etc are publicly traded companies. Most companies wouldn’t exist or grow if they didn’t receive public money. But hey instead of eating a 3/4 pounder meal and paying $7.99 buy Wendy’s stock at $7.72 a share and earn some of those dividends.

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avatar Frank Gormlie September 3, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Tom, so your response to the hard-working, un-benefitted young people in this article is ‘hey, become a capitalist, like me and McDoughnut.’ No compassion in your solution, bro – why not try to find some.

Where’s the common good here? Where’s your feelings for your fellow Americans? Many can’t and don’t want to be part of the ‘dog-eat-dog’ capitalist world. In case you haven’t noticed, we only have one planet and we’re all on it together, and America is a little patch with a huge appetite, run by the wealthy corporations, and who obtained that wealth because of the little people like Debra, Diego and Yasmine.

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avatar Tom September 7, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Frank, if you or anyone else doesn’t want to be part of the dog-eat-dog world then don’t. Never said you had to and I’m not forcing you to. But hey, don’t complain when the big dog only gives you minimum wage OK.

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avatar Mari September 3, 2013 at 3:44 pm

I’m a registered Democrat and I agree 100% with Tom. Working at a Fast Food chain should be used as a stepping stone. I worked at a FF joint from age 16 until I finished college. I started off at $4.25 an hour and it was plently of money. I also received free birth control pills from Planned Parenthood so I didn’t end up single mother.

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avatar Frank Gormlie September 3, 2013 at 5:30 pm

There’s plenty of news articles out there, Mari, that are reporting that many of these fast-food jobs are not held by young people moving up, but by more older workers who work at these joints because they have to, and are not expecting to move up or over. Your stepping stone is a mystical one, shrouded in the fog of decompassion.

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avatar Sean M September 8, 2013 at 6:04 am

Frank, the trend is towards a larger percentage of ALL jobs being held by older workers.
See zerohedge

80% of the jobs created this year were part time. :-(

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avatar Bearded OBcean September 4, 2013 at 10:12 am

So what’s the solution Frank? Give fast food workers a raise to $15? Unfortunately, they’ll be out of a job altogether once those chains, often owned by independent franchisees, close because they can’t keep up with labor costs. That, or the next time you buy a burger, you’ll be paying 20% more. And of course, other independent chains will raise their prices, think Hodads, to keep in line with the market, not to mention their employee wages.

The article doesn’t mention whether the young mother completed high school or had to drop out because she had a kid at 18. Of course, those are choices in life that don’t always lead to a path of prosperity. Sometimes, compassion is necessary. Sometimes, we have to take responsibility for our actions; past, present and future, and not complain about the hand we’re dealt because of decisions that we’ve made along the way.

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avatar Frank Gormlie September 4, 2013 at 10:14 am

Every time the minimum wage is raised, the economy is flushed with new cash and the sea rises for everyone.

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avatar Peter September 8, 2013 at 11:30 am

Chains would have to pass on some of the cost to their customers, which would be a good thing. Some may go out of business, and this is a good thing. The cost of fast food to society is far higher than the price on their menus reflect. Not only are their employees huge consumers of welfare, medicaid, and food stamps, but most of the food they serve is poison to human health and the environment. Diet related health care costs in the US are over a TRILLION dollars a year. This is more than the deficit.

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avatar rak September 9, 2013 at 3:44 pm

According to a 2012 Demos study the cost to a company to pay employees at a minimum a living wage ($25,000/yr; $12.25/hr) even if passed on entirely to consumers would result in price increases of about 1%. I don’t think any company is going to go out of business for that reason.
In fact, many of the fast food businesses that operate here in the states are already paying $15/hr in other countries and doing quite well.
And it’s even possible to directly compare towns or cities that are part of the same regional economy, but are separated by state borders and have different minimum wages. A 2007 New York Times report on one such area was around Post Falls, Idaho and Liberty Lake, Washington where on the Washington side, the minimum wage was the highest in the nation, at just under $8 an hour, and Idaho was among the lowest, matching 21 states that have not raised the hourly wage beyond the federal minimum of $5.15. What they found was that “instead of shriveling up, small-business owners in Washington say they have prospered far beyond their expectations”.
I say it’s time to raise the minimum wage to $15/hr.

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avatar bob dorn September 4, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Tom, is all of this some Daily Show joke?
First, the girl has one child, and maybe it wasn’t in error, Tom, maybe she decided to have the kid. The problem is, she’s working 15-hour days because she has to. She’s not blaming anybody, certainly not you; she’s not even thinking of you, more to pity you for, because she’s a delightful person. You’d probably like her if you were to meet her.
Secondly, Diego Rios is taking care of himself. He’s not gonna make you feel better if you meet him. You and he are different people. He’s not suffering a need to make a lot of money.
Third, the companies are making money because they’re paying their employees at a rate not as life-supporting as was easily available during those damn 60s and 70s, back when you were growing up to be a man. In other words, they’ve decided they won’t pay a living wage because it leaves more money for the executive class. Class is very much in session.

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avatar Tom September 7, 2013 at 3:27 pm

OK, if Diego Rios isn’t looking to make more money then why opine for a raise? The kid just wants to work a no brain, no competition job and make more money. Well, he gets what he is worth and it ain’t $15 an hour.

If the girl decided to have the kid or it was an error doesn’t matter. One, the father needs to take responsibility and help out financially. Second, pay for a job is based on what that job is worth. Flipping burgers and filling fry bags ain’t worth $15 an hour. But let the FF employees keep screaming because even they will be replaced or downsized by machines. Then the FF employees can cry about all the MIT engineers that put them out of work.

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avatar nancy September 10, 2013 at 7:12 am

Would you go for a raise to $10.00 an hr.? I’m guessing your answer would be NO,
as you probably think the “no branier” job wouldn’t be worth that even. I’d like you to try it for a day and see if you’d last a week.

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avatar nancy September 8, 2013 at 9:39 am

I can still see the guy at a crowded McDonalds a few years ago that was taking orders at a window that had a line; I was about 5 th from the front, and all of a sudden, he freaked with “i’m out of here” and threw his order pad up in the air and walked off.
I wish all of the fast foods and other companies paying minimum wage could close for a day, and we’d see how they’re missed.
It’s nice to think that all are capable of doing whatever Tom, and others who think like him, but the reality is that it isn’t so. People have varying levels of intelligence and capabilities, and yes, it’d be nice to move along and make more at each job as one moves on with the prior experience helping him/her. But the job market we’ve had in the last few years doesn’t provide that situation. It’s no more students who are working parttime at these minimum wage jobs, esp. in fast food, but mature adults who don’t have college education are now a lot of what we see when we line up.
Not everyone has a chance to go to college, even if they were capable of the academics due to their financial situation. Many are not capable of surviving in college.
We don’t think anything of tipping our waiters/waitresses at non fastfood restaurants but many look at the person standing at a fast food or running around cooking in their crowded kitchen as just a person at the bottom of the totem pole. “they have it easy” and “it’s just a stepping stone” (used as an excuse by many) which it isn’t anymore.
It is a fact that our country has the largest inequality gap of any other industrialized nation. That’s wrong.
The jump to $15.00 will not happen, but the wage for minimum wage workers definitely needs to be raised to at least $10.00.
There are too many Toms in this country, and that’s sad.

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