In a Huffington Post op-ed penned by Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) on Labor Day, the congresswoman blasted McDonald’s CEO Donald Thompson, “one of corporate America’s most successful African Americans,” for making too much money.
Schakowsky attended a protest in favor of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour organized by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago. It was held in front of a McDonald’s the morning of August 29. The congresswoman said she joined the protesters outside the busy McDonald’s to express her support, “because for years I’ve been fighting to reverse the debilitating and growing income inequality in our country,” she wrote.
In her rundown of the protest, Schakowsky compares the $8.50 hourly pay of McDonald’s employees to that of the company’s CEO, Donald Thompson:
The workers energetically shouted chants like “I can’t survive on eight twenty-five.” $8.25 is the minimum wage in Illinois, a full dollar higher than the Federal minimum wage. McDonald’s employees work an average of 24 hours per week, and those I spoke with who had been working a decade or more had advanced up to $8.50 per hour, earning a grand total of $10,608 for the whole year.
Compare that to the pay package of McDonald’s CEO Donald Thompson — $13,751,919 in 2012. That comes out to an hourly wage of $6,611. Don earns more in the first two hours of the first day of the year than a McDonald’s worker makes all year long.
She criticized Thompson further, saying he gave employees a “Practical Money Skills” budget management packet with sinister intent, created by Visa Inc. and Wealth Watchers International, an organization whose stated goal is “to help people spend less money than they make.”
The budget lists income for the worker’s first job and second job, all totaling $2,060 for the month, acknowledging off the bat that no one can live on what he pays them.
A March 2012 Chicago Tribune article on Thompson’s background paints a different picture than Schakowsky’s likening of him to a greedy corporate fat cat:
His roots, it appears, have kept him grounded and humble as he skyrocketed through the ranks of the Oak Brook-based fast-food chain and arrived at the table of the city’s corporate elite. It also has made him relatable to the rank and file.
The Trib reports Thompson’s grandmother moved him to Indianapolis when he was 10 years old to get him away from Chicago’s gang-ridden streets. When he was 11, he printed out business cards and distributed them to a nearby convalescent home where residents hired him to do errands and clean their apartments. After excelling in math and science, he was recruited by the Minority Engineering Advancement Program at Purdue University’s School of Engineering and Technology.
There he met his wife, with whom he is active “in too many charitable organizations to list,” including “working on an initiative to help young African-American males achieve higher education attainment and have more opportunities,” according to Terry Mazany, CEO of the Chicago Community Trust. Mazany said, “He has never forgotten his roots. He knows how education is a game changer. He understands it, because he has lived it.”
Schakowsky nevertheless seized the moment to attack Thompson in her war on affordable fast food. She joined a group of professional protesters (Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago) that have been traveling around Chicago in a bus for the past few months agitating employees outside corporations’ retail stores, such as McDonald’s, Victoria’s Secret, Verizon, Subway, etc.
She joined the committee to deliver the following demands to McDonald’s management:
The hard-working employees at your location ask that you make the following changes immediately:
1) Stop requiring employees to pay out-of-pocket if their cash registers are short
2) Show respect to your employees — less shouting and insulting language.
3) Air conditioning in the kitchen
4) Permit employees to drink water when the kitchen gets too hot.
5) Give raises and provide living wages
6) Stop requiring employees to pay out-of-pocket for food that is returned by customers.
DNA Info reports:
In a statement, McDonald’s said the company “aims to offer competitive pay and benefits to our employees” but that it doesn’t set wages at restaurants owned by franchisees. At its corporate-owned shops, pay begins at minimum wage but that workers can earn more with experience.
“Our history is full of examples of individuals who worked their first job with McDonald’s and went on to successful careers both within and outside of McDonald’s,” the statement said.
In 2011, McDonald’s was ranked eighth on the inaugural list of best global workplaces by the global firm Great Place to Work, and it was also ranked eighth on the 2011 list of best companies for leaders by the global consulting firm Aon Hewitt.