logo mashup via Perfect Image Group
Fast food giant McDonald's is notorious for paying low wages.
The company's employment practices have been making a lot of recent headlines. First there was this summer's protest—the biggest one to ever hit the industry— when workers in 50 cities walked out on their jobs calling for fair pay and the right to form unions. We saw McDonald's respond to the mounting pressure with a widely ridiculed employee budgeting tool that allows a whopping $25 a day for food, child care, transportation, and clothing, and that's if an employee gets a second 30-hour a week job on top of full-time McDonald's employment. Then we learned that the company also runs the McResource advice line that steers employees to public assistance programs like Medicaid and food stamps.
What about Apple?
It's one of the best-known, most admired companies on the planet.
It's created countless millionaires by richly rewarding corporate-level positions in engineering, design, programming, and marketing. But the majority of Apple's nearly 50,000 U.S. employees work in Apple Stores. They might not be flipping burgers, but like McDonald's workers, they're members of the service economy, and most earn about $24,000 a year, an income that is within $1,000 of the federally-designated poverty level and which happens to be the same lowly amount used by the sample budget in McDonald's financial planning tool.
McDonald's and Apple are members of an exclusive club.
They are the nation's largest and most profitable corporations that are also the stingiest. They're keeping company with Walmart, although even Walmart pays its employees better ($26,000 on average), and Walmart pays out a greater share of its earnings to its workforce.
Not such golden arches...or shiny apples
In 2012, McDonald's earned a profit of $8 billion. Divide that by the number of workers and the company made a profit of $18,200 from the labor of each employee after paying an average salary of $18,000.
In the same year, the phenomenally successful Apple Corporation posted a profit of more than $40 billion. Divide that by the number of workers and Apple raked in an astonishing $697,000 per employee.
Another thing they have in common: little hope for advancement.
According to the National Employment Law Project, nearly one-third of all jobs in the U.S. economy are managerial, technical, or other professional occupations. By contrast, only about 1 in 50 fast food jobs is classified as 'professional.' There's simply no room at the top for the army of low-skilled workers to aspire to.
Legions of young, college-educated true believers flock to Apple Stores where the job prospects aren't much better. Yes, they're working for an exciting, fast-growing, innovative company, but store employees soon realize that they aren't in the tech industry. They're retail workers, and a job in an Apple Store isn't much different than ringing the register at the shoe store across the mall. Dozens of qualified candidates working on the sales floor are all vying for a few management opportunities, and the turnover is practically nil over at the high-paying Genius Bar. Most Apple Store jobs, just like those at McDonald's, are low wage, menial dead-ends.
McDonald's and Apple, fast food and technology. Both companies and both industries are America's leading representatives to the global economy. Both are enormously successful businesses that pile up huge profits while they pay poverty level wages to the majority of their employees.
Who would you rather work for? Is there any difference?
Gigabiting: where food meets culture and technology.
More from living