Monday, October 27, 2014

I'm takin' what they're givin', 'cause I'm workin' for a livin'

“The first time I got a nickel I thought, the world is a marvelous place, but then I thought— a dime, a dime would be better. Then I wanted a quarter.”
These words, spoken by Nucky Thompson (as so eloquently portrayed by Steve Buscemi) in the final episode of the HBO series Boardwalk Empire, echo the sentiment of anyone who has ever held a job. Ever.

As I do most Sunday mornings, I leisurely sipped a cup of coffee while I watched the languid reporting unfold on CBS Sunday Morning, a mainstay on the Tiffany Network. When the program premiered, its target audience was mainly (and still is) older Americans. Sometime over the past 34 years, I fell into that demographic and I find myself enjoying stories that, in my younger days, would have scoffed at. (Ironically, it was my son who got me back into watching the show, although he would often poke fun at host Charles Osgood's quaint bow ties and somewhat folksy introductions.)

Don Thompson, Ronald McDonald's boss.
This morning, I watched with interest, as a profile of McDonald's CEO Don Thompson was presented. In 2012, after 41 years with the international fast-food giant (nine of those as CEO), Jim Skinner* stepped down from his position. Don Thompson took over and a better man couldn't have been found. Mr. Thompson grew up in the shadow of the notorious Cabrini-Green housing projects on Chicago's mostly-affluent Near North Side. The exception to the area's prosperity was Cabrini-Green, a hot spot for murder, robbery and gang violence. Thompson, a bright young man, rose above the obstacles of his surroundings and, with the love and support of his grandmother, graduated from Purdue University with a degree in electrical engineering. However, he decided to exchange his degree for a spatula, working his way through the ranks of the McDonald's Corporation. Thompson eagerly took on every task — no matter how menial — from flipping burgers to cleaning the fryers to scrubbing the rest rooms until they sparkled. All of his hard work and diligence paid off. The one-time fry cook is now running the largest hamburger restaurant chain in the world (35,000 outlets and counting). His salary in 2013 was a french-fry width under 9.5 million dollars. I'm sure he is proud of his accomplishments. He should and has every right to be. Any one of us, in his position, would be, too.

In his 2+ years as CEO, he has faced a number of company issues — sagging sales, bad press — but, recently a series of protests has been his prime focus. McDonald's employees across the country have been up-in-arms about their wages. They've been staging rallies and even walkouts. The average crew member at McDonald's makes about nine bucks per hour. Different positions (cooks, cashiers, shift managers) are paid different wages. Promotions are rewarded with an increase in hourly pay. Sure, it's sometimes a matter of a few cents, but an increase is an increase. I'm sure that when they applied for the job, they were told what the compensation would be. I'm sure that everything from how to hold a mop to how to operate a cash register was clearly explained in the hiring process. And, no doubt, "rate of pay" was covered somewhere in the mix.

Now, I know that there ain't a single working person on God's green earth that thinks they are overpaid. Not a one. No one tells their employer, "Thank you for paying me more than what I am worth." On the contrary, everyone from the hardest, stay-late-to-finish-a-project go-getter to the laziest, what-do-you-do-all-goddamn-day goof-off feels — nay, knows — they are underpaid. The solution is very simple and it doesn't involve a protest sign. If you don't like your current pay at your current job, get another fucking job! No one is stopping you. And don't give me that shit about the CEO making millions. That has absolutely nothing to do with your job. Nothing! Believe me, he works pretty hard. Very hard, in fact. Harder than you'll ever work, with waaaaay more responsibility than you'll ever have. He is responsible for the company staying in business and he is on the receiving end of every complaint. The guys who are bitching about their hourly wage are responsible for making sure that the pickles go on top of the ketchup, not underneath. If they think they should be getting fifteen dollars an hour for forgetting your hot apple pie in your order at the drive-thru, there are at least ten people who will be happy — nay, ecstatic — to do it for nine.

Don Thompson is a man to be admired. He is "The Great American Dream" personified. If the disgruntled masses out on the picket line exerted the same energy at their jobs as they do grumbling over Mr. Thompson's success, perhaps they would actually be worth the pay increase that they seek.

There's an old expression that comes to mind: "Everybody wants a job, but no one wants to work."

* Mr. Skinner, at 70,  currently resides at the corner of Happy & Healthy as Chairman of the Board of Walgreens.


  1. He was profiled on 60 Minutes too. I figure good for him and his success, but it doesn't hurt to let the less driven people make a living too. I don't want to be the one flipping the burgers.

    1. I'm sorry, Linda my friend, but I totally disagree. Sitting on one's ass and complaining should not be rewarded. If you want help from someone, start by helping yourself.