“How are we supposed to live? »: Fast food workers squeezed by inflation | Inflation
Minerva Rodriguez has worked at McDonald’s in Houston, Texas for over 23 years. She is paid $12 an hour and says she does the work of two to three people because the restaurant is chronically understaffed. Now, like many Americans, she faces another crisis: runaway inflation. And while she has noticed that food prices in her store have gone up, wages have not.
“Wages are incredibly low and insufficient for the work we do,” said Rodriguez, who joined the fight for $15 and a labor movement to push for higher wages and better working conditions. “They don’t want to lose that extra money. If they can get their current employees to double work and not have to pay another worker, that’s a plus for them, but what about us? With food prices rising and gas prices rising, how are we supposed to live? »
Inflation hits Americans hard. U.S. consumer prices rose 8.6% from May 2021 to May 2022, the largest increase since 1981, outpacing overall annual wage growth at 5.2% in May 2022. Food prices increased by more than 10% over the year. A gallon of gas is more than 50% more expensive than a year ago. The median monthly rent in the United States reached an all-time high of $2,002 per month in May 2022.
Among those bearing the brunt of rising costs for basic necessities are fast-food workers, the majority of whom are paid less than $15 an hour with little or no benefits. Many of these workers see no increase in wages correlating to the rising prices they face for food, housing, clothing and transportation.
And while workers in the fast-food industry struggle with low wages and understaffing, corporate fast-food chains have reported immense profits.
McDonald’s reported record sales growth in 2021 at 13.8% and earnings of $7.5 billion, and company CEO Chris Kempczinski was paid over $20 million in 2021, more than 2,250 times the median wage of workers.
Yum! Brands, owner of fast food chains Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut, reported a profit of $399 million in the first quarter of 2022, an increase of 22% compared to the first quarter of 2021. David Gibbs, the CEO of Yum! Brands, received a salary more than 2,100 times that of the median salary of workers, at $27.5 million in 2021.
Chelsie Church, a shift manager at a Denver, Colorado-area Taco Bell for about a year, started a petition on Coworker recently, pushing for the company to raise wages as low wages have left workers struggling to make ends meet. Church says shifts are severely understaffed and low wages are hampering hiring and retention as nearby competitors pay better.
“Nobody can live on $13 an hour,” Church said. “We have to deal with angry customers all the time because of our price hikes, but our wages don’t.”
Church said her bi-weekly paycheck did not cover bills and basic expenses such as food, gas and other necessities. As shift supervisor, she received a pay raise to $16 an hour, but she argued the extra workload and responsibilities weren’t worth it and other employers are starting the workers. beginners at this salary.
“Many people have turned down the work because it won’t be enough to pay the rent or help you buy clothes and food for the kids,” she said. “Everyone busts their ass with extra work they don’t get paid for. Nobody has a break. I have no respite.
In Kansas City, Missouri, where Fran Marion worked as a shift supervisor at Taco Bell for about a year, she experienced similar issues of low pay, understaffing and overwork — all while inflation drives up the cost of living.
“I make $16 an hour and literally live paycheck to paycheque and the pay is absolutely no match for the job they expect me to do,” Marion said. “I’m so exhausted having to fill these additional positions and do what upper management wants me to do in the time frame they need me to do.”
She has no paid vacation and cannot afford the health insurance coverage offered to employees by the company.
“Everything goes up but pays,” added Marion. “We are human like everyone else. We may not be doctors or lawyers, but we are still workers and we are people struggling to provide for our families.
At Burger King in Independence, Missouri, Bill Thompson earns just $11.15 an hour after 10 years with the company. With inflation, it became even more difficult for Thompson to make ends meet. He has received no recent pay raises, while working understaffed.
“I do the work of three people,” Thompson said. “Food prices have tripled for meat and dairy products. We’re already going to pantries and getting food that no one else likes, like peanut butter, powdered milk, and mystery meat. Where is the dignity in that?