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You Want Fries with that? Fast-food Budget Strikes a Nerve in WYO

PHOTO: McDonald's taking some heat for issuing an ideal monthly budget for its minimum-wage employees. One analysis shows Wyomingites need about $61,000 a year for a family of four to cover basic expenses. Photo credit: Microsoft Images
PHOTO: McDonald's taking some heat for issuing an ideal monthly budget for its minimum-wage employees. One analysis shows Wyomingites need about $61,000 a year for a family of four to cover basic expenses. Photo credit: Microsoft Images
July 19, 2013

CASPER, Wyo. – McDonald’s is taking some heat for issuing an ideal monthly budget for its minimum-wage employees.

It's a budget that makes unrealistic assumptions, according to Dan Neal, executive director of the Equality State Policy Center.

It adds money for a second job and doesn't include expenses for childcare or anything related to children.

Neal says the center knows from workshops it has held around the state that many Wyomingites trying to get by on minimum wage are single mothers.

"So people should think for just a minute on what it would take try to live on a little over five bucks an hour," he says.

There is a national push to raise the federal minimum to $10.10 an hour by 2015. Legislation has already been introduced.

The minimum is currently $5.15 an hour, although some states and cities have higher minimums.

Opposition comes from concerns in the business community that raising the minimum wage will force companies to close their doors.

Neal agrees that setting a monthly budget is a good idea, no matter your income. But he points to the McDonald’s example as evidence of a business out of touch with reality.

"The thing that, of course, jumps out at you at the budget they set out is that one, there's no money set aside for food, and there's no money for heat,” he points out. “You know, you can't live anywhere without food and try living in Wyoming for a year without heat."

A later version of the budget added $50 a month for heat, but keeps health insurance at $20 a month, while the average monthly policy is more than $200.

The national legislation would also raise the minimum for tipped employees, which is currently about $2 an hour. Neal offers this perspective on that.

"I think it's always worth reminding people that if the minimum wage had tracked inflation, right now it would be $10.75 an hour," he says.

If productivity were connected to the minimum, Neal maintains it would be closer to $18 an hour.

An Economic Policy Institute analysis finds that families of four need between $61,000 and $64,000 a year for basic expenses in Wyoming, with those in rural areas needing the most.

The McDonald’s budget is based on about $24,000 a year for a single worker, who also has a second job.




Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - WY