It is not unusual for people steeped in insensitivity and cruel disregard for others to masquerade their callousness as benevolence toward those they hold in contempt. For thirty years Republicans have feigned concern for the American people’s economic well-being with policies they claimed would help them succeed and prosper if they would only persevere and work harder, but all the while the GOP helped kill jobs and kept wages at poverty levels to enrich big business. Apparently, big business saw the gullibility of the voters buying into the Republicans’ faux concern for the people and over the past few months one of the largest fast food retail chains in the nation has attempted to conceal their heartlessness with concern for their employees’ economic plight, but the people are not buying it. McDonalds’ employees are some of the most underpaid workers in the nation, and to persuade their workers the company has their best interests at heart are once again offering advice on how to survive working part-time for poverty wages.
A few months ago McDonald’s joined with credit card giant Visa to give their underpaid employees a sample budget replete with advice to take on a second job, forego expenses like heating, and feed themselves on $27 a month. The “budget journal” for McDonalds’ employees painted a wholly inaccurate view of what it is like to budget on a minimum wage job, and instead of illustrating that McDonalds workers could live comfortably and build a savings account on poverty-level wages, it only underscored exactly how difficult it is for an underpaid fast food worker to survive. This week, McDonalds sought to help their employees again under the ruse of concern for their health and psychological well-being heading into the holiday season. And, once again they displayed the heartless disregard for their workers’ intelligence and quality of life Republicans have demonstrated for the past five years.
Because McDonalds’ “sample budget” only left $27 a month for food, the company advised hungry employees to “break food into pieces” to feel full as if crumbling a piece of bread into smaller pieces would better fill the void in their empty stomachs. Of course, when “breaking of bread” failed to satisfy their employees hunger, the company graciously offered their workers valuable assistance to apply for food stamps. Interestingly, McDonalds is an avid Republican supporter and in 2010 intimidated employees to support Republican candidates who are attempting to slash food stamp funding to Draconian levels.
Where the fast food giant exposed that they fully comprehend the psychological pressure their low-wages have on their hungry employees were suggestions to combat the stress and high blood pressure inherent with wondering how to eat on $27 a month. The company encouraged their employees to reduce their blood pressure by “singing along to your favorite songs,” and reminded them that “people who attend more church services tend to have lower blood pressure.” It is “Jesus saves” advice and surprising they did not combine the two suggestions and suggest singing their favorite church songs to reduce their stress level and blood pressure.
This week, Republican Paul Ryan revealed that he is on the same page with McDonalds’ advice for more church and unveiled his new and improved anti-poverty agenda founded on more Jesus. Ryan told a Heritage forum that the key to curing poverty is going “eye to eye, soul to soul. Spiritual redemption: that’s what saves people.” However, those underpaid McDonalds workers trying to feed themselves on $27 a month will still leave church several times a week hungry and Jesus or no, they will still have to break food into smaller pieces in a futile attempt to fill their empty stomachs.
McDonalds’ underpaid, hungry, and stressed-out employees are not stupid, and they know full well the absurd advice to seek Jesus, break food into pieces, or singing their favorite church song is not going to help them survive and they finally started protesting and complaining about poverty-level wages McDonalds “graciously” affords them. McDonalds, always ready to appear benevolent about their employees stress levels at barely surviving had sage advice to relieve stress; stop bitching. The company suggested workers start focusing on the positive and told them that their “stress hormone levels rise by 15% after ten minutes of complaining.” They then gave them some “helpful holiday tips” to make it through the Yule Tide season and recommended “selling some of your unwanted possessions on eBay or Craigslist to bring in some quick cash.”
McDonalds is a money-making machine that is refusing to consider raising their employees’ wages despite protests around the country. The company claims raising workers’ wages is a deal-breaker they can hardly afford because it would raise the price to the consumer as well as adversely affect the retail giants’ profit margins; it is a bald-faced lie. In Europe where the minimum wage for a McDonalds’ employee is $12 an hour, customers pay a few pennies more than their counterparts in America for the exact same menu items and European stores typically bring in higher profit margins than McDonalds’ stores in America.
McDonalds’ employees, and all Americans for that matter, can take away a valuable lesson from first, the McDonalds-Visa “sample budget,” and second, advice on how to cope physically and mentally while working at a highly profitable fast food giant that pays poverty-level wages. The company, like the Walton family (Walmart), knows its employees can hardly survive on minimum wages and they comprehend that low wages are placing undue stress on workers expected to go without heat in winter and live on $27 a month for food, clothing, and dog-forbid, personal hygiene products. That both Walmart and McDonalds offer to help their underpaid and underfed employees apply for food stamps, welfare, and Medicaid while they support Republicans who covet cutting those low-income assistance programs into oblivion is an affront to their workers and should enrage all Americans.
What the McDonalds and Walmart corporations are discovering is that after thirty years of Republican callousness disguised as benevolent concern for American workers is that the people are not gullible and see through their faux regard for their well-being. It does not take a genius to figure out that a company offering stress reduction strategies because their employees are expected to eat on $27 a month, or offers assistance to apply for government assistance, doesn’t know its low wages are barely enough to survive on and place unnecessary stress on their employees. More than being outraged, McDonalds’ workers should feel insulted that a giant corporation has the temerity to believe their employees are stupid or naïve enough to think that breaking food into little pieces, singing, or going to church more frequently is going to improve their economic situation or relieve the stress of barely surviving. After thirty years of Republicans raping the economic life out of the American people under the guise of benevolent concern, McDonalds is going to have to come up with a new strategy because their workers, like most Americans, have lived this charade for too long.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.