McDonald’s is finally getting real about helping its workers get by. The company has moved past the fake budget that includes a second job and allocates just $20 a month for health insurance. Nope, now McDonald’s is giving workers the real secret to survival on McDonald’s wages: government assistance.
Chicago McDonald’s worker Nancy Salgado—a single mother, 10-year McDonald’s employee making the state minimum wage of $8.25, and activist who has twice joined one-day strikes for higher wages—called the “McResources” 1-800 number:
The McResources staffer offers her a number to “ask about things like food pantries” and tells her she “would most likely be eligible for SNAP benefits” which she explains are “food stamps.” After Salgado asks about “the doctor,” the staffer asks, “Did you try to get on Medicaid?” She notes it’s “health coverage for low income or no income adults and children.” [...]In the full, fifteen-minute audio, which was provided to Salon by the campaign, the McResources counselor can also be heard telling Salgado she “definitely should be able to qualify for both food stamps and heating assistance.” She tells Salgado that having food stamps “takes a lot of the pressure off how much money you spend on groceries.” She also tells Salgado she may possibly qualify for Medicaid, though “I wouldn’t want to get your hopes up.”
McDonald’s answer to living on $8.25 an hour: food stamps. Also heating assistance. And maybe Medicaid.
This is totally realistic and in fact what makes survival on $8.25 an hour possible for most people. But could it possibly highlight more perfectly the reliance of the fast food industry on government assistance to subsidize poverty wages? It’s basically a straight-up admission from McDonald’s that the highly profitable company knows it isn’t paying workers enough to live on and is looking to taxpayers to make that possible while keeping profits high and prices low. This has got to be one of the most f’ed up, corrupt kinds of capitalism imaginable: companies padding their profits by pushing their workers onto public assistance. And it’s a feature, not a bug.
So for every person who worries what would happen to the price of their Big Mac if McDonald’s had to pay a living wage, there should be a couple who’d be saving by not having to subsidize the other guy’s cheap hamburger and McDonald’s high profits. I’d mention the benefit to workers and to the basic value that work should pay enough to live on, but let’s be real: Those things obviously don’t matter to McDonald’s.