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McDonald's President Was Caught Off Guard By Low-Wage, Single Mom

A video of a McDonald's worker confronting the president of the fast-food behemoth has gone viral this week, with the help of a fast-food workers' campaign aimed at raising hourly wages to $15.

In the short clip, the worker, Nancy Salgado, a Chicago single mother of two, shouts out to Jeff Stratton, president of McDonald's USA, who was standing at a podium in a ballroom giving a talk.

"It's really hard for me to feed my two kids and struggle day to day. Do you think this is fair, that I have to be making $8.25 when I have worked for McDonald's for 10 years?" Salgado shouts out from the back of the room.

Stratton's response? "I've been there 40 years."

As Salgado calls out that she needs a raise, she is escorted out of the room, and in the video you can hear a voice say, "You're going to be arrested." Later, police reportedly issued her a ticket.

In bringing attention to this video, the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago, which is helping to build the campaign for $15-per-hour wages, has circulated a press release highlighting the disparity between McDonald's corporate profits — which totaled $5.5 billion last year — and workers' wages. According to WOCC, the median wage of cooks, cashiers and crew is $8.94 an hour.

According to an MIT living wage calculator, an adult with one child needs to make $20.86 an hour working full time in the Chicago area to afford the basics.

There's been suggestion on social media that Stratton's response was curt and insensitive. So we reached out to McDonald's to ask him if he would have responded differently to Salgado had the circumstances been different — say, if she had not barged into a private event and interrupted him.

"Yes, Jeff Stratton was caught off-guard at this church-based event," a McDonald's spokeswoman told us by email.

And why did Stratton bring up his 40 years at McDonald's? Well, it turns out "his 40-year anniversary was that very week, so it was top of mind for him," the spokeswoman said.

The company points out that Stratton first joined McDonald's back in the '70s as a restaurant crew member and has worked his way up.

McDonald's says its history is full of examples of individuals who worked their first job with the company and went on to have successful careers both within and outside of McDonald's.

As for the push from workers for higher hourly wages, McDonald's says it "does not determine wages set by our more than 3,000 U.S. franchisees," according to the company spokeswoman.

At the restaurants run by McDonald's USA — less than 10 percent of the roughly 14,000 outlets in this country — the spokeswoman explains, "we pay salaries that begin at minimum wage but range up from that figure, depending on the job and employee's experience level."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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