Laurentina is taking part in a strike today outside the McDonald's in Chicago where she works. After five years as a McDonald's employee, she earns $9.15 an hour, which is not enough to support her four children. "I know a lot of people going through this same situation I am going through," she told the Guardian. Despite wanting more hours, she is often lucky to get 25 to 30 hours a week. Laurentina is opening up about the realities of her job as part of our A day's work series. Leave more questions for her at The Guardian in the comments, and she will answer them later today.
1. What is your typical day like?
I work five days a week. I get up, take my kids to school, head to work and try to eat something before I start as I don't always know when I'm going to get a break. It's up to them what position I work that day. I've done everything – kitchen, grille, product stocking, cashier. They've offered me [a chance] to be a manager, but it's not worth it for a 50 cent raise. The managers are always so stressed out, worrying that we don't have enough people for that shift. I have four kids to worry about, I don't need stress to take home.
2. There's been a lot of talk lately about people wanting work/life balance. Does your job provide that?
It's very tough. I get paid $9.15 an hour. I have to depend on the father of my children for a lot, always asking him for money. It would be nice to be able to support my kids on my own. That's why I decided to work. I applied to McDonald's and they called me right away. I was hired right on the spot.
When I started working, [my pay] was around $6.25 at hour. It went up because the minimum wage went up. I get a raise every 6 months, but it's often only 5 cents. The most I've ever seen is a 25 cent raise, but that's hard to get.
3. What's the craziest/most unexpected thing that's ever happened to you while on the job?
I had one customer – I provided his coffee and he went off on me. I just walked away. The manager was like why did you just leave the customer? I said, "Look, I didn't want to say anything that would make me lose my job." But the manager saw the whole thing and didn't stand up for me.
Honestly, about 1 out of 10 are really really rude. You just have to keep everything to yourself. I try to "kill them with kindness". I try to treat people with respect. There are some really nice customers.
4. What makes for a really good day on the job?
There are good days. There are managers who are really nice and say "Hi, how are you? We've been waiting for you" when you arrive. They make sure you get a break and make sure you feel supported. I get along pretty well with all our managers, but you still have to watch what you say to them. They are your bosses. We try to keep a line between us and the managers.
There was this one time three yeras ago, a customer came in through the drive thorugh. It was around Christmas time. She said here, "This is for you. It's Christmas" And this woman gave me a $50 bill and said to keep it. It was really an amazing extra present.
5. What's your annual salary? Do you get benefits?
They are always checking that you never make 40 hours. I typically make between 25 and 30 hours a week. They often stop you at 38 hours a week. It's really hard with my kids. I know I could get two jobs, but then would I be able to raise my kids? Would I be able to give them enough attention? By the time I'm out of work, they are out of school, but I still try to spend time with them. it's hard.
We don't get healthcare benefits. We are now thrown into the healthcare market. McDonald's just gave us a litle card – "how to navigate the health market". I am hoping to find time to look it up. Mcdonald's has been providing info where we eat on posters and stuff.
For our break, we get one free meal from McDonald's. We do get discounts on McDonald's meals on our days off. They provide uniforms for us, and every 6 months we get shoes from them to work there.
6. Why are you striking today?
We're hoping to get better benefits and better pay: $15 an hour. Fortunately, i'm not worried bout losing my job. I'll be outside my restaurant. Some customers do support us, some just think we're crazy. There are usually a lot of people honking in support. I am doing it first and foremost for my family. I always think of them. But I know a lot of people going through this same situation I am going through.
7. What is your dream job?
I've always wanted to be a cook – a chef. I love cooking.