I Am a Young Mom Working At McDonald's. Here's What It's Really Like

May 22nd 2015

McDonald's workers gathered around the corporation's Oak Brook, Ill., headquarters on Thursday to protest outside the company's annual shareholder meeting. As a huge crowd stood outside, its request for higher wages was a topic of debate inside the meeting. At McDonald's, the average worker makes just $9 per hour, and more than half of McDonald's workers receive some kind of government assistance. A recent University of California, Berkeley study found that low-wage workers receive an estimated $127.8 billion per year in federal aid and $25 billion in state aid.

Albina Ardon is a 27-year-old mother of two who has worked at McDonald's for 10 years. "Even if you don't believe it," she said, "when working at McDonald's you get a lot of stress." Ardon makes about slightly more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and is on public assistance. It wasn't until recently (after she began protesting) that she was allowed a 10 minute break at her store, she told ATTN: in a video released last month. "The biggest weapon we have is our story," Ardon states.


Last December, during a previous national strike, we also spoke with Albina. Here is a lightly edited transcript:

ATTN: What do you do at McDonald's?

My husband and I work at the same McDonald's. I am a cashier at the front or at the drive thru. My husband works in the kitchen.

ATTN: How much do you make?

Together, we make almost $900-a-month with his check and my check.

ATTN: How hard is it to live on your current salary?

It's really hard. My last raise was more than a year ago.

I think it's unfair that my boss lives in rich neighborhoods, and we don't have food for our families. Most of the people that we work with are like us. They don't have money. I always tell my co-workers that we should do whatever we have to do to fight for better lives for our families. You can't complain about how you live when you don't want to do anything about it.

ATTN: What's it like to work at McDonald's?

Sometimes it's like working two jobs, but only getting paid for one. They send people home early because they don't want to pay for extra hours when it's slow so I have to take orders and also bring the orders to the customers. I get really upset, but there's nothing I can do. I need the money.

Some customers can be really mean to employees. I think they forget that we are working because we need the money to feed our families and pay the rent. But some customers understand. After our last strike, some people told us that they would pay more for their food if we could make $15-an-hour. That was really great to hear.

ATTN: How many hours a week do you work?

My hours are unpredictable. I am supposed to work from 2pm to 10pm, but, if I'm lucky, I'll get to work 6 hours. Sometimes I'm only given 5 hours. I've asked for more hours, but they say they can't because business is slow.

ATTN: Do you get health insurance?

No. I don't get anything from McDonald's. I use Medicaid for my family and me.

ATTN: How can you pay for transportation to work?

If I have money for gas, I'll drive. I live about a 10-15 minute drive away. If I don't have enough money for gas, I'll walk, and it's about 25 minutes to walk to work.

ATTN: What do your bosses say about this strike?

They tell us we are losing work time. Sometimes they laugh about us, saying like, "I hope you guys get $15-an-hour," but they don't take it seriously. They look at it is a joke.

ATTN: What message do you want to get across today?

I want to tell McDonald's that it should stop treating us badly. We're all humans, and we all deserve to live better than this. I've gone on strike four times so far.

ATTN: Do you have any advice to workers who are in a similar situation?

Speak up. Don't be afraid to go out and tell you story. I'm not the only one -- most of at McDonald's really struggle. We don't have enough money to buy food. We don't have enough money to apply for a house. If we don't fight, no one else is going to do it for us.

ATTN: What do you want to see happen?

I want to see wages go up at McDonald's. I also want to have a full career where I can show my kids that if they fight, they can win.

One of the biggest myths about minimum wage jobs is that they are primarily held by teenagers or part time workers; instead 88 percent of minimum wage workers are age 20 or older, nearly 250,000 hold college degrees, and more than 50 percent work full-time.​ To see 5 myths shattered about the minimum wage, watch this video: