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Mother Jones, in a reaction to the fast food workers walk-out, created a calculator so that people can see how many hours per week they'd need to work at a fast food establishment in order to make their typical monthly salary. Just to pick a not-too-high salary at random, let's say you're making $35,000 per year. Let me guess, you're probably feeling underpaid, right? But also, you probably aren't working much more than 40-hour weeks, and you probably get to sit down during the day, and maybe even have benefits. Well, if you were a fast food worker, you'd have to work 75 hours each week to make that kind of money. 75 hours! And, as the Mother Jones article points out, most fast food workers are only working 25 hours a week, meaning they make under $12,000 per year.
And if you were making less than a fast food worker? If you were earning only minimum wage, how many hours per week would you need to work to make the suddenly luxurious sounding salary of $35,000/year? 93 hours per week. And, lest you forget, there are only 168 hours in the week. In order to work 93 hours, you'd have to work 7, 14 hour days, which means that after sleeping for eight hours (because you know you'll be exhausted) you'll have two hours for yourself. I'd assume those are spent commuting. And all this for $35,000/year.
If this is all completely mind-boggling to you and you can't fully conceive of how someone can make money on minimum wage or a fast food worker's salary, never fear! McDonalds created a fake budget for you to look at and model your life after. The budget (up above) is notable for a couple of things. It hilariously assumes that rent will be $600/month, and that cable/phone will only come in at $100. It also assumes that you're shelling out $150/month for car payments but nowhere does it factor in the cost of gas. Which, you know, that $150/month will be quite wasteful if you can't actually DRIVE ANYWHERE. But the most absurd thing about this budget is that it operates under the assumption that the average McDonalds worker is not able to survive at all without working two jobs. And because the first job's salary is listed at $1,105 and the second at $955, assuming the salary for both is (let's say) $9/hour, that means that this fictional McDonalds worker is working 58 hours each week, which works out to someone either putting in more than 11 hour-long work days five days a week, or more than 9 hour work days 6 days a week. I guess my main point here is, don't call it a livable wage when, in order to earn it, you can't really have a life.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen