It would take Tyree Johnson 114 years of non-stop work to earn as much money as the CEO of McDonald’s received in compensation last year alone. More than one million hours as Bloomberg News’ Leslie Patton calculated as she follow Tyree from one McDonald’s restaurant to the other one he works.
Tyree still does not get 40-hours a week from both jobs. All the while he earns minimum wage and is denied raises because he smells like the food he cooks. An excuse that helped drive Tyree to join the Fight for 15 campaign.
The pay gap separating fast-food workers from their chief executive officers is growing at each of those companies. The disparity has doubled at McDonald’s Corp. in the last 10 years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. At the same time, the company helped pay for lobbying against minimum-wage increases and sought to quash the kind of unionization efforts that erupted recently on the streets of Chicago and New York.
Older workers like Johnson are staffing fast-food grills and fryers more often, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. In 2010, 16- to 19-year-olds made up 17 percent of food preparation and serving workers, down from almost a quarter in 2000, as older, underemployed Americans took those jobs.
“The sheer number of adults in the industry has just exploded” because fast-food restaurants “not only survived, but thrived during the economic recession,” said Saru Jayaraman, director of the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California at Berkeley.
Like many low-wage workers, Tyree finds it difficult to pay rent even in a less than stellar neighborhood. Corporations like McDonald’s helped increase the riches of the top one-percent while leaving Tyree and millions of their employees behind.
Shareholders, not employees, have reaped the rewards. McDonald’s, for example, spent $6 billion on share repurchases and dividends last year, the equivalent of $14,286 per restaurant worker employed by the company. At the same time, restaurant companies have formed an industrywide effort to freeze the minimum wage, whose purchasing power is 20 percent less than in 1968, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank that advocates for low- and middle-income workers.
More to come but we will leave you with this from Tyree on why he joined the Fight for 15 – “I can’t get a promotion and I am making minimum wage. I just want to make a difference for all people.”