Faces of Fast Food: Getting by on $7.40 an hour in Detroit

The argument goes that fast food workers don’t deserve more than minimum wage because the jobs require no skill and are meant to be temporary for teenagers and others who are just entering the workforce.

But in a city like Detroit, where unemployment is rampant and people are losing their homes, fast food is anything but temporary. At least it provides some money for those lucky enough to get full-time jobs – a little under $250 a week after taxes. At $13,000 a year, a full-time fast food worker makes just above the poverty line for an individual, which is $11,136.

On Thursday, more than 100 fast food workers in Detroit walked out to protest what they consider unlivable wages.

Here are four people who work in fast food in the Motor City. Click on a photo to see their story.
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Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.

  • Rockwell Quixote

    Can we hear the rest of the strory? The otherside perhaps I mean, what is the educational background and skills that these individuals have? How have they prepared themselves to make more money??? How do they figure that they should partner with their employer? Did they take any risk by going into business? Did they invest in the building? If you work anywhere for 11 years and are still earning $7.40 and hour there clearly is another side of the story. If you have kids and work in fast food and only work part time what else are you doing with your time? Fast food is not a career it is a job by which many of us have learned from and moved onto other jobs that dont pay us our worth.

  • dirtydog1776

    It is so sad that these people were unable to take advantage of the fine educational opportunities offered by Detroit Public Schools so they could find a better job.

  • StretchRun

    Raising wages also means raising prices. Go back to the bakery workers making the buns, ketchup factory workers, etc. All those wages that you increase, including fast food restaurant workers increases costs which increases hamburger prices.

    It’s the same thing with clothes made in China. People complain about the lost jobs but the costs of the clothes are significantly less because they are imported from China. Are consumers ready to pay higher prices for American unskilled labor?

    At the same time, we have to import people to fill skilled jobs in engineering and Information Technology from places like India. Maybe Americans should get off their butts and get educated instead of acting entitled to high wages for low skilled jobs.

  • Bob Connely

    In a city such as Detroit that has so many residents who are poverty-stricken, ANY business hiring employees at minimum wage levels should be required to boost that pay to $________ (I don’t have the answer, but it’s somewhere arounbd a level that would allow people to live). It’s no damn wonder crime is as it is in Detroit: it pays better.

    • Stewart

      And when YOU spend YOUR money to start/build a business- then YOU pay anything YOU want- above what YOUR competitors are paying. And YOU will be out of business- soon. There is NO risk taken by an employee- they come, they go- they HAVEN’T invested a thing, EXCEPT TIME, which they are paid for.

  • FreshHellNews

    McD’s never should have swapped out the printed words “Big Mac”, etc. register keys with pictures in the 90’s.

  • Bob

    At McDonalds they get 15 applications for each hire. This is no joke, ” At least it provides some money for those lucky enough to get full-time jobs “. That’s why strikes and demands are great risk to the workers.