April 20, 2011 in Business

McDonald’s event raises hiring hopes

Thousands of applicants nationwide show up for chain’s ‘hiring day’
Christina Rexrode Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Rosaland Hemphill, 48, of Atlanta, fills out a job application at an Atlanta McDonald’s restaurant Tuesday. McDonald’s expects to hire 50,000 new workers nationwide.
(Full-size photo)

McDonald’s Corp. went on the offense Tuesday against critics who complain that it’s a lousy place to work.

The world’s largest hamburger chain held its first National Hiring Day and was awarded with a strong response from job seekers. Thousands showed up at restaurants nationwide to apply for jobs dispensing shakes and serving Happy Meals. The company planned to hire 50,000 new workers in one day, boosting its staff by about 7 percent.

McDonald’s painted the event as a boon for an economy where more than 13 million Americans are looking for work. But the real purpose, industry experts said, is that McDonald’s needs to portray itself as a decent employer.

That will be a challenge for a company whose name is often synonymous with “you-want-fries-with-that” jokes. “McJob” even has a place in The Oxford English Dictionary, defined as “an unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects.”

But to people who need work, any stigma is beside the point.

Managers at a McDonald’s in Cincinnati said a dozen or so applicants had lined up by 7 a.m., an hour before the restaurant planned to start interviews. By 10 a.m., the store had interviewed 100 people and had 25 more waiting.

Tiwian Irby, 28, was hoping for a full-time job and wasn’t particular about what it would entail. He said he’d had trouble finding regular work since getting laid off from his construction job two years ago.

“A job is a job to me,” said Irby, a father of three. “I’ll take whatever is available.”

McDonald’s and other fast-food chains, once an entry point into the work force for teenagers, appear to be turning into an employer of more adults, a legacy of the recession, industry watchers said. The average age of a fast-food worker is 29.5, up from 22 in 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Danitra Barnett, McDonald’s U.S. vice president of human resources, said she couldn’t specify what proportion of the 50,000 new jobs will be full time or what they will pay. About 90 percent of McDonald’s restaurants are owned by franchisees, and the company doesn’t control what they offer in wages or benefits. Barnett said most franchisees pay more than minimum wage, which is $7.25 an hour nationally.

$7.25 an hour would amount to about $15,000 a year for a full-time worker, according to government formulas.

Salaried managers for company-owned restaurants can make between about $32,000 and $50,000 annually, spokeswoman Danya Proud said.

The average annual salary in the U.S. is $43,460.

McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner made $9.7 million last year.

For Richmond, Va.-area franchisee Sue Durlak, National Hiring Day was an opportunity to expand the applicant pool for her 10 restaurants and maybe even find someone who can follow in her footsteps.

She started part time in 1982 while working as a middle-school health teacher in Illinois to supplement her income. She has since worked her way up to owning several locations.

“I do look at anyone who applies … as the potential as a lifer,” Durlak said.

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