I’m making $21 an hour at McDonald’s. Why aren’t you?
No, that isn’t a typo. It’s really my salary.
You see, I work for McDonald’s in Denmark, where an agreement between our union and the company guarantees that workers older than 18 are paid at least $21 an hour. Employees younger than 18 make at least $15 — meaning teenagers working at McDonald’s in Denmark make more than two times what many adults in America earn working at the Golden Arches.
To anyone who says that fast-food jobs can’t be good jobs, I would answer that mine isn’t bad. In fact, parts of it are just fine. Under our union’s agreement with McDonald’s, for example, I receive paid sick leave that workers are still fighting for in many parts of the world. We also get overtime pay, guaranteed hours and at least two days off a week, unlike workers in most countries. At least 10 percent of the staff in any given restaurant must work at least 30 hours a week.
But in New York last week, I met fast-food workers from around the world who aren’t as lucky as I am. We marched through Midtown Manhattan demanding a fair wage and respect at the workplace.
Many of the U.S. workers I met make less than $9 an hour. And unlike in Denmark, where most fast-food workers are young people looking to make extra money while in school, the vast majority of U.S. fast-food workers are adults trying to support their families. Roughly 70 percent are in their 20s or older, according to a recent study, and more than a quarter are raising kids.
I met Jessica Davis, for example, who works at a McDonald’s in Chicago and has two daughters— one 4 years old and the other 4 months old. After working four years at McDonald’s, she makes $8.98 an hour and has no stable work schedule.
How can fast-food companies expect employees to work hard but not pay them enough to live on? All fast-food workers should be able to support themselves while helping large companies like McDonald’s make huge profits.
Employees also deserve a voice in their workplace — as we have in Denmark — and McDonald’s should respect the right of employees in all countries to organize and speak for themselves.
McDonald’s didn’t give us our union. We had to fight for it. It was a five-year struggle that involved many demonstrations like the ones that will stretch across the globe on Thursday.
In Denmark, I will be in one of them.
PHOTO (TOP): Protesters march outside McDonald’s in Los Angeles, California, December 5, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
PHOTO (INSERT): A customer exits a McDonald’s restaurant as members of ‘MoveOn’ shout slogans against McDonald’s in front of the restaurant in Times Square, New York, December 4, 2013. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz