You Shouldn’t Be Fighting The Fight for $15

Tomorrow is (American) Thanksgiving, which means quite a few different things to different people. Yet, what stands out to me about the holiday with each passing year has been how  greedy as hell many people can be. Yes, I’m calling out those of you who have actually come up with strategies for taking multiple plates of food that you will likely tire of by Saturday. 

There’s a very good chance that someone in your circle has to work tomorrow. This person can’t be there to enjoy the festivities because they’re probably working a job that is difficult to miss days from. Though some are getting substantial holiday pay, others certainly are not; notably those who are either serving people who do not observe Thanksgiving or people who are psychotic enough to rush for Black Friday sales.

Think about how much food you’re leaving for whomever has to work before you take plate #3. Temper your greed a bit, and save someone a plate. After all, for that person, every single dollar counts.

$15/hr x 40 hours/week (ideal full-time schedule) = $600 weekly gross pay

Have you ever been unemployed? And I mean seriously unemployed. Not the type where you were able to land a new gig within two weeks after you lost the last one. Not the type where you may not have to collect unemployment right away because your family is loaded or your severance package is better than an administrative assistant’s annual salary. I mean the “can’t find work for months, flirting with a full yearseriously unemployed.

I ask that because if you have ever been out of work for a sustained period of time, then you know what it’s like to wonder how much longer can you keep paying your bills until the bottom falls completely out. You know what it’s like to have to check your pride somehow and consider your options of borrowing money, using credit cards (if you have them), applying for public assistance or some combination of the three.

You know what the struggle really is now.

You also find your psyche being tested in ways it would have never entered when you were blissfully buying venti hazelnut macciattos as a “snack” late in the work day. The longer you’re out of work, the more desperation seeps in your mind.

You start to look at “we’re hiring” signs at every store you walk into, knowing damn well you don’t have the interest or patience for that kind of work because you would have to deal with horrible customers… like yourself.

Then you speak a whole new language.

I’ll take a temp job. I’ll take a contract gig. I’ll do freelance.

Hell, I’d even work at McDonald’s!

And to that last option, as my late father used to sarcastically quip, “yeah, okay.”

$600 weekly gross pay – $74.50 federal withholding – $37.20 Social Security – $8.71 Medicare – $23.14 New York withholding – $0.60 SDI – $15.05 NYC tax = $440.81 net pay

So, you look at that McDonald’s application, with a snarky comment about their fish fillet sandwiches ready for use.

You grew up learning that people who worked at fast food joints were one of two kinds of people; teenagers and losers, mostly losers. The kids were learning the value of hard work and earning a dollar, and that very well may be true for some who grew up in relatively affluent familes. However, it wasn’t a kid whose face adorns the “Employee of the Month” sign, but a mid-30s mother of three whom doesn’t have the name, educational background or look befitting of a nice desk job.

You, who grew up in the same community as some of the employees who work there, look down upon them because they actually are flipping burgers for a living. Yes, some made a few errors in their younger days, perhaps one or two of those self-inflicted wounds anchored them to the bottom of the labor pool.

You think their work isn’t hard. You were taught that they were one step away from irrelevance because modern technology ensures that they cut out errant orders. The McDonald’s worker is replaceable, she lacks skills to move beyond her station, and is remarkably incompetent at her job; a job that can be done by machines, if the company ever got its druthers to just automate everything.

Of course, there is the whole “dealing with people” issue that not even the most streamlined and efficient technologies can properly address. But that’s simple, too! Click a button, wait for the burger, put the fries in the bag, hand them their meals. Particular requests from the customers, be damned!

And yet…

$440.81 net pay x 2 weeks per pay period x 25 pay cycles = $22,040.50 annual income after taxes

… you’re looking at this application. Doing the math in your head, you’re thinking of calling Navient/Sallie Mae, Discover, your sister and brother-in-law and just about anyone else you owe sums to. Some folks will get paid right away, but in much smaller doses than before. Others will have to wait until you’ve notched a few months and some beneficial scheduling in.

And you still have to handle the shortfall in paying your rent or mortgage on time.

You’re not even sure if you’d even get the job because, surprisingly enough, you’re actually inexperienced and unskilled in the fast food sector. If McDonald’s hired their cooks based on advanced degrees and good networking, then it would have the “smartest” employees in the world. But they hire based on how little are you willing to be paid for the most amount of work.

Isn’t that why you left your second-to-last job two years ago?

Average rent for one bedroom apartment in New York City (All five boroughs) = $3,100/month

So, you still live in Queens. You don’t live along the gentrified waterfront, but you know that rents have gone up all over because you live in “the most diverse county in the world” as well as three express stops away from Midtown Manhattan.

Is it time to move back home? Could you hold out a little bit longer and at least settle for a room rental near the job? You have to keep your phone on, but perhaps you could forgo not only cable, but Netflix and Hulu, too.

Speaking of your phone, you see this story on Facebook.

All of that and more has been on your mind for a long time as their jobless recovery continues to wobble itself into an inevitble talking point for the 2016 elections. You had no idea that life without a safety net is pretty damn hard, but here you are, still looking at that McDonald’s application.

The sarcasm is gone, and you start filling it out. This isn’t what you imagined for yourself because you had always been insulated from the economic calamity other food servers endure on a daily basis. Even though you didn’t grow up rich, you grew up believing that you would never have to scrape pennies together in order to survive.

Thank goodness that as you try to fill out the “experience” section of the application, you get an email from a recruiter about a full-time salaried job. After replying, you prepare to delete the application from your phone when you ask youself an important question.

How can I actually be against those waging the #Fightfor15?

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