Wednesday, October 23, 2013

McDonald’s Worker Tells CEO She Can’t Feed Her Kids

I consider myself something of a bleeding heart. I like to root for the underdog, and I’m sensitive to those who might be having a harder time of things than some others. Truly.

But I’ve been struggling for the past few days about a story reported on AOL Jobs: Fast Food Worker To McDonald's CEO: I Can't Feed My Kids.

Nancy Salgado, a McDonald’s employee of 10 years, publicly confronted McDonald CEO Jeff Stratton while he was giving a keynote speech at the Union League Club of Chicago.

Salgado told Stratton, “I'm a single mother of two. It's really hard for me to feed my two kids and struggle day to day. 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?”

And I’ve been stuck on the word “fair” ever since. How does one answer that question? How does a CEO decide what portion of profits he’s obligated to share with his workers? And considering that Illinois is an at-will state, and no one is forcing Salgado to work at McDonald’s for $8.25 per hour, is her question about fairness, “fair?” I’m not so sure.

When questioned by, Salgado offered $15.00 an hour as a fair wage for what she does.

Now, that number has been thrown around quite a bit lately by those who advocate for a living wage versus a minimum wage, so I find it kind of suspicious that Salgado quoted it, because it seems to me that Salgado has no idea what her skills should be worth. Instead, she’s regurgitating a number she’s heard. And I think that before a worker starts asking for a raise, she ought to have some idea what her skills are actually worth in the marketplace.

Later in that same interview with, Salgado said there are times she can’t buy milk for her kids. Well, then I really got upset. Remember, Salgado has been at McDonald’s for 10 years.

Listen sister. If ever you’re in a position where you can’t buy milk for your kids, then I think it’s safe to say your current work situation sucks, and it’s time to pursue a new one. I know the economy is weak, but still.

This is going to sound harsh, and I’m sorry. But if you’ve been with the same company for a decade and haven’t yet learned enough to qualify for a new job that pays you what's needed to consistently put milk on the table, then you’re a damn fool. Why haven’t you moved on yet?

And the answer can’t be, well, I like it here. I don’t want to leave, so management should pay me more. No. Management isn’t obligated to pay you more than your skills are worth because you won’t explore other career options.

The other day we went out for dinner, and Thomas, my 9-year-old, didn’t like his meal so he didn’t eat it. Irritating, but I don’t believe in shoving food down kids’ throats, so okay.

On the way home, I decide I want an ice-cream cone, and since we’re approaching McDonalds we stop there. Thomas asks, “Can I have a chicken sandwich?” Fine, Thomas.

My husband orders the sandwich, and it’s $1.00.

I understand volume sales and all that jazz, but $1.00? What kind of chicken sandwich costs $1.00? I’d be scared to eat it. 

So my husband and I go back and forth whether Thomas should eat it. I stick by my position—no way is actual chicken in this thing. Ed says, “Nah, McDonald’s sells a gazillion, that’s how they can charge so little.”  

I give in and Thomas eats the sandwich. (Okay fine—Thomas had already starting eating the sandwich while Ed and I were talking.)  

And Thomas loves it. The next day he wants another. I tell him, “Heck no, kid. You’re not getting another one of those ever.” It’s a fact. A $1.00 chicken sandwich should taste like poop. A $1.00 chicken sandwich that actually tastes good has got to have something in it that can kill you.  

But here’s my point. I’d gladly pay more than $1.00 for a sandwich so that someone else could have a better living.  

And I’d definitely pay more than $1.00 for somebody to get access to an educational or training program that would qualify her for a job that allows her to buy a gallon of milk for her children. Or a career counseling program that would open a world of possibilities to someone with enough hutzpah to confront her company’s CEO in public.  

By the way, I’m not saying I’m opposed to raising the minimum wage, per se.  

But at some point we have to help ourselves so that others can help us. And by help, I don’t mean asking questions like “is it fair that I have to be making …” as though you’re an indentured servant or something.

If I’m being a meanie, somebody, please let me know. But this I just don’t get. Ten years. No, something’s not right.


  1. minimum wage is just that, minimum. you should not dictate how much you make based on a minimum criterea. i think minimum wage should be less. it would certainly help the us dollar be worth more. you think buying milk for your family is hard now, then why dont we raise the minimum wage to $15.00 and that $4.00 gallon of milk will now cost you $10.00, how far ahead did that take you. Here's a better idea, why not stop your bitching and get a degree, find a better paying job without a degree. Your not a tree, you can get up and leave if you don't like your address. Enough with this we all need to be equal crap. you get what you get, and yes sometimes its unfair, but its equally unfair for us all at times.
    i do agree there need to be programs out there to help those that are struggling, but if you have been at the same address for 10 years and you are still struggling, then there is no help for you!

    1. There is always hope. Coaching and assistance with determining what her transferable skills are would be beneficial to this person.

  2. Crystal,

    I just saw this on the U Penn Alum Linked In site. All I can say is Bravo! You laid out the argument beautifully.

    Here in the DC area there was a recent uproar over Walmart. Walmart wants to build a couple of stores in DC. This will revitalize and draw people to a run down part of DC. It will bring jobs. Then "potential employees" started protesting that they can't live on minimum wage and tried to get Mayor Gray to support their cause. They wanted to force Walmart to pay a higher wage.

    Walmart said if you dictate the wage we pay our employees we'll stop construction and pull out of DC. They have every right to do that. Mayor Gray understood the situation and didn't support those demanding a "living wage." Minimum wage is not meant to support a family. It is a starting point and usually implies a low skill job.

    Once Mayor Gray determined that the city counsel would not get its way and demand a "living wage" the construction continued. And guess what, many, many people showed up to fill out job apps.Where did the idea that a low skill, entry level job should support a whole family?

    As for Ms. Salgado in your blog, I struck me that she is still flipping burgers at the same McDonalds after 10 years. If she had showed leadership, going the extra mile, being a team player, understanding customer service & food safety and demonstrated ownership and pride in her McDonald's store perhaps she would have been put on a management track. She needs to examine her own work ethic.

    1. "Where did the idea that a low skill, entry level job should support a whole family come from?"

      I don't know. But regardless, once reality settles in, it's time for somebody to make a choice.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Has anyone considered the fact that not everyone has the ability to earn a degree or perform the functions of a management job?

    1. Hey Seth! Good to see you.

      You know, I have thought about this.

      I spent at least two hours yesterday reading the comments to the follow up article:|main5|dl1|sec1_lnk3%26pLid%3D396868 and gathering a whole bunch of opinions on this topic, which obviously goes beyond Ms. Salgado.

      I agree with you. Not everyone is cut out for or wants to be in management. It also occurs to me that the fast-food model is DEPENDENT on entry-level workers. Everyone can't go into management, or the model fails. The problems start when the wrong type of employee stays in an entry-level position too long. Then you have what we're seeing.

      I'm not saying Ms. Salgado should be a manager by now. I'm saying that as a mother she needs to make her situation work, regardless of what her employer will or won't do. I'm saying ideology be damned, she has responsibilities.

      There ARE other options. Plenty of women without degrees work in offices making $15 or even $20 an hour. And there are jobs in retail and childcare and collections and customer service that pay better than what Ms. Salgado is making now.

      I think a similar industry (on the white collar side) is the content farms, where writers are paid a few dollars for each article they produce. Some crappy websites participate, but some big name sites partake as well. No writer can make a living doing this, and I'd even call the work exploitative. Yet it suits some. The others need to find work elsewhere, for their own sakes.

  4. I would like to add on to Seth's statement, having a degree does not guarantee a better job!

    1. Hi Sledge.

      No it doesn't, unfortunately. However, doing nothing (other than what you're already doing) almost guarantees that you WON'T get a better job.

  5. Hey Crystal,

    Sorry I'm all late checking out this post...but I thought I'd chime in anyways. I wrote a couple of months back on my blog about the situation in D.C. with Walmart. I understand the arguments that employers will base their salaries off of the current labor market (supply and demand). Currently we happen to be in a market when their is more labor than there is a demand for, which will keep wages down (regardless of whether its an entry level position or not). But on the other hand, when we start to deal with huge conglomerates such as Walmart, McDonald's, Macy's, etc...these organizations annual revenues are in the billions, and you can literally find these types of retailers in almost every corner of the U.S., at what point can we say...where is that corporate social responsibility that is usually preached by executive leadership at these organizations? If you are looking to be a meaningful partner in the communities that you do business in, wouldn't investing a little more money into those economies be a good place to start? Anonymous mentioned the danger of hyper-inflation, and I'm not advocating that we go to that extreme, but I honestly believe that corporations could do more.

    On the other hand, I completely agree that a person's financial well being is determined by their desire to achieve. I am a hispanic male, that grew up in the projects of New York (shout out to the Lower East Side), but I have worked hard to be able to develop my own skills both personally and professionally and have not allowed the socio-economic circumstances that I have faced to be a hinderance for me. Why can't others do the same? I'm not saying that I am a shining example for others to follow, but I have had my fair share of trials and tribulations also. I would't say that I am where I want to be just yet, but I know that I am working toward improving my own financial situation and am not relying on my employer to give me a raise (although...any incremental raises, allowances, bonus', are welcomed), what stops others from doing the same? I know this may sound harsh, or critical, or even condescending, and I apologize in advance, and hope other readers understand that what said what I said with extreme humility, but the reality is just that and it needs to be said. Furthermore, (and this is my last point - I promise!) if this woman can't afford milk for her kids, there had got to be something else we're not seeing, there is plenty of government assistance that Americans in her situation can take advantage of such as SNAP, not to mention Medicaid, Childcare Assistance (where available) and other programs that are meant to help working Americans who are facing what she faces. She mentioned fair, but is she putting in her fair share of effort?

    - Ernie

    1. Ernie, I so appreciate your comments. I'm going to check out your article about the DC situation, too. (Next time, drop a link man!--we don't stand on ceremony around here.)

      I totally hear what you're saying. I'm also conflicted. I think corporations with their billions could do more, but I'm also a fan of personal accountability. And not from a "high horse" viewpoint, but from the view of if you don't do for yourself, who the heck will do for you??

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Haha...I definitely will next's the link to my post over the summer about Walmart and their opposition to a living wage minimum:

    Since then, the DC City council approved the living wage minimum, however, D.C. mayor Vincent Gray vetoed the bill, it then went back to the city council and was not able to garner enough votes to override the mayor's veto. Currently D.C. lawmakers are looking for ways to increase the overall minimum wage in the city.

  7. I would suggest also consider stores like Costco that seem to be seen by employees and employers as places that value their workers. I have not looked but wonder if there is a different "track" that workers have there from minimum wage up. The commentary that suggests that leaving and finding something else is easy or doable or that the failure to do so is an indication of not taking personal responsibility seem like throw away comments from a privilegded point of view, less than compassionate, less than complete and less than fully informed.

    1. Companies like Costco do make you wonder, don't they? They enjoy wonderful reputations as fair and generous employers while making plenty of profit to boot. Encouraging.

  8. Unfortunately, we are in a time when there is more labor available than there are jobs. So, that will always keep wages down. Hopefully, Our government can keep adding job opportunities.

    1. Hi Sandy:

      You have a point, but I think the situation is more complicated than that even. As a society, we have some decisions to make.

  9. The fact that she has been employed at McDonald's for 10 years speaks volumes to whether she is putting in her fair share of effort: dependability, independence, commitment, creative ability to maintain a family on such a low wage; she must be a good worker otherwise she would not have been able to hold onto her job for over a decade, not to mention advocacy. Coaching is in order to assist her with securing a more rewarding career.

  10. first time i've heard this story. How did he respond then?

  11. Ms. Salgado was kicked out of the meeting after getting a dose of the old "bootstrap myth." Wonder if she's still working there ...??