Challenging the CEO of a major corporation in a public venue would seem to be one of the fastest ways to hit the unemployment line. For Nancy Salgado, it at least got her a dismissive answer and alleged threat of being arrested when the McDonald's cashier publicly shamed chain CEO Jeff Stratton, and she doesn't know whether she'll pay with her job. So why do it?
According to a video interview she gave to TheRealNews.com, it's because she's at her wit's end. "Sometimes I can't provide a gallon of milk" for her two kids, the single mother said. After ten years of working for the company since she was 16, she claims to have never received a raise, still earning $8.25 for between 30 and 40 hours a week.
According to MIT's Living Wage Calculator, the living wage for a single adult with two children in Cook County, which includes Chicago, is $25.51 an hour, while $8.80 an hour would be considered a poverty wage. Minimum wage in the state is $8.25 an hour.
Stratton was speaking at the Union League Club of Chicago, whose website states that the organization "enriches members lives and improves the world by creating extraordinary opportunities for camaraderie, personal enrichment and meaningful community involvement."
"I'm a single mother of two. It's really hard for me to feed my two kids and struggle day to day," Salgado said in the video. "Do you think this is fair that I have to be making $8.25 when I've been working at McDonald's for 10 years?"
Stratton answered, "I've been there 40 years," getting some applause from the audience according to a Chicago Tribune report. Stratton, 57 reportedly started at McDonald's as a teenager at $1.60 an hour, held various positions in the company, and assumed the top role in 2005.
However, an organization like McDonald's has relatively few management positions when compared to the number of line workers. And a recent report by the National Employment Law Project says that today's fast food worker has "virtually no chance of advancement" in the field.
According to TheRealNews.com report, Salgado and six others were given tickets for trespassing. In her interview, when asked what would be a fair amount, Salgado said $15 an hour.
The $15 an hour figure is one that has been offered by labor, clergy, and community groups that have backed repeated walkouts and protests at fast food establishments around the country.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 2.9 million food preparation and serving workers, which includes fast food. The average hourly wage is $9, with half of workers making less than $8.78 an hour.
Although often defended as entry-level jobs for younger people, statistics suggest that fast food work has become an adult occupation, with a median age of 28, about one in four that have at least one child. In addition, like Salgado, many do not receive fulltime employment, meaning that their economic plights are even worse.
When adjusted for inflation, the picture is even grimmer. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, fast food wages in real terms have been dropping steadily since 2009. Any degree of economic recovery the country has seen has not translated into an improvement.
Salgado claimed that her hours were cut after the protest, according to TheRawStory.com.
Correction: An earlier version of this post had an incorrect figure for the Illinois state minimum wage.