CHICAGO — Rep. Jan Schakowsky, in a Labor Day essay pushing for a hike in the federal minimum wage, lashes out at the CEO of McDonald's for making $6,611 — an hour.
Writing for the Huffington Post, the North Side Democrat says McDonald's president and CEO Donald Thompson "earns more in the first two hours of the first day of the year than a McDonald's worker makes all year long."
Thompson, a Chicago native who grew up near the Cabrini Green public housing development and is one of the country's most successful black businessmen, made $13.7 million in 2012, she says.
Schakowsky also writes that "lest you think Donald Thompson isn't thinking about his workers," she points to a "practical money skills" packet and sample budget the company gave to employees.
The packet's work sheet assumes $2,060 income per month from two jobs and lists mortgage/rent as $600 and health insurance at $20 — "amounts that are suitable only in [Thompson's] fantasy world," she writes.
"The real Welfare Kings are the Fast Food Giants and all those poverty wage employers who refuse to pay a livable wage," Schakowsky writes.
In Illinois, the minimum wage is $8.25, a dollar more than the federal minimum wage.
Thompson said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in July that McDonald's has "always been an above-minimum wage employer."
"We're about providing opportunity," Thompson said.
In a statement, McDonald's said the company "aims to offer competitive pay and benefits to our employees" but that it doesn't set wages at restaurants owned by franchisees. At its corporate-owned shops, pay begins at minimum wage but that workers can earn more with experience.
"Our history is full of examples of individuals who worked their first job with McDonald's and went on to successful careers both within and outside of McDonald's," the statement said.
Thompson, 50, has spoken of growing up in Chicago until he was in 6th grade. When he was ten, his grandmother who raised him moved to Indianapolis for safety reasons.
He went on to obtain an electrical engineering degree from Purdue University and serve on a number of charity boards.
He and his wife, Elizabeth, who grew up in Cabrini Green, live in west suburban Burr Ridge but reportedly continue to attend church in Woodlawn.
In a profile as a contributor to the Chicago Community Trust, which funnels money to non-profits, he said that while a lot of people ask him how tough it was to "grow up in the projects," he and his wife "had a wonderful childhood." Both were ingrained with a concern for the less fortunate, they said.
"The money we have is not ours, anyway," he said. "It's a blessing."
Schakowsky, a leading liberal, urges expansion of labor unions, which she describes as a "ticket to the middle class." The congresswoman, whose district includes a number of North Side neighborhoods and suburbs, wrote of recently joining workers at the "Rock and Roll" McDonald's at 600 N. Clark St. to protest working conditions.