I’m making $21 an hour at McDonald’s. Why aren’t you?
No, that isnâ€™t a typo. Itâ€™s really my salary.
You see, I work for McDonaldâ€™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 McDonaldâ€™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 canâ€™t be good jobs, I would answer that mine isnâ€™t bad. In fact, parts of it are just fine. Under our unionâ€™s agreement with McDonaldâ€™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 arenâ€™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 McDonaldâ€™s in Chicago and has two daughtersâ€” one 4 years old and the other 4 months old. After working four years at McDonaldâ€™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 McDonaldâ€™s make huge profits.
Employees also deserve a voice in their workplace — as we have in Denmark — and McDonaldâ€™s should respect the right of employees in all countries to organize and speak for themselves.
McDonaldâ€™s didnâ€™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