The High Cost of Low Wage Jobs

McDonald’s idea to help workers create a household budget seems to have backfired. Analyze their monthly budget — which includes just $30 per day to spend for all your food, gas, home heating, childcare, clothing and toiletries purchases — and the numbers just don’t add up, which is no surprise to most Americans, especially those struggling to support themselves and their families on far less than a living wage. A growing movement of low paid workers fighting for change are using this document to bolster their argument that wages must increase if workers are to stay on the job.

More than 100 economists have signed a petition urging an increase in the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.50. Economists point out that McDonald’s could offset half of the costs of the wage increase by increasing the price of a Big Mac from $4.00 to $4.05.

A common misconception is that most low wage workers are young people without dependents, not supporting themselves with their minimum wage job. However, only 9.3% of workers who would benefit from the increase are teenagers.

In his recent article, Fast Food, Low Pay, Mark Bittman notes:

“Six elements are affected by the way food is produced: taste, nutrition and price, and the impact on the environment, animals and labor. We can argue about taste, but it’s clear that our production system — especially in the fast-food world — is flunking all the others. And if you think food is ‘cheap,’ talk to the people working in the fields, factories and stores who can’t afford it. Remember: no food is produced without labor.”

Laurie Johnston is a staff writer for Spirit of Change magazine.