A McDonald's employee who has been working for the fast-food giant for 20 years still earns minimum wage, even as corporate profits have soared.
Tyree Johnson, 44, works at two Chicago McDonald's restaurants for $8.25 an hour, minimum wage in Illinois. Johnson needs two paychecks to make ends meet; he doesn't get enough hours at either restaurant to pay for his $320 monthly rent in a single-occupancy hotel room on the city's north side.
Johnson told Bloomberg that he takes makeshift baths in the restrooms of the McDonald's he works in because hygiene and appearance are part of his annual compensation reviews. But he says it's difficult to wash the smell of greasy foods off his body.
"I hate when my boss tells me she won't give me a raise because she can smell me," Johnson said.
Johnson says that he has worked in six different McDonald's restaurants over the years and that every time he switches stores his pay gets knocked back down to minimum wage. This also occurs every time a franchise changes ownership.
"Every time they transfer you to different store, they lower your pay," Johnson told Bloomberg. "You have to climb back up."
Meanwhile, Jim Skinner, the company's former chief executive officer, earned $8.75 million in 2011. Johnson would hypothetically have to work more than a million hours-- or 114 years-- in order to match Skinner's annual salary. And McDonald's profits have soared 135% in the years 2007-2011, even as Johnson's wages remained stagnant.
Skyrocketing profits have meant bigger dividends for McDonald's shareholders at the expense of the workers whose labor created those profits in the first place. The company has paid a whopping $6 billion in dividends and stock buybacks in the last fiscal year, the equivalent of $14,286 per employee. Bloomberg points out that fast-food restaurants like McDonald's have also collaborated to keep the minimum wage stagnant, even while corporate profits and CEO salaries rise.
The average American fast-food worker earns around $18,564 annually. That's barely enough for one person to live on, especially in expensive urban areas, and nearly impossible to support even the smallest family on.
This undoubtedly explains why fast-food workers in New York City went on strike last month, demanding higher pay and the right to unionize.
McDonald's spokeswoman Becca Hary answered questions about Johnson's low pay by pointing out that the company has no say in franchisee's compensation policies.
"Our franchisees are independent business owners and make all their own hiring and wage decisions," Hary told Bloomberg in an email.