Fast food workers challenge misconceptions in local hire campaign | Alabama News


By HADLEY HITSON, Montgomery Advertiser

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — When Gerry Murphy was entering his sophomore year of college, he decided to get a part-time job at McDonald’s to help pay for his gas, like many teenagers do. Now it’s been 40 years and Murphy has worked his way up to owning 30 McDonald’s restaurants across Alabama.

He considers himself proof that “the McJob” is a myth.

“The great thing about McDonald’s is that it can be a job or a career. For me, it ended up being a career,” Murphy said. “The perception of ‘McJob’ is unfortunate because McDonald’s has opened doors for hundreds of thousands of people to make a career out of it and support their families.”

Coined in 1986 by a Washington Post headline, the phrase refers to a low-paying, low-skilled job that offers few opportunities for advancement. Since then, McDonald’s has been fighting the stereotype.

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Yet Murphy and his employees regularly see the misconception.

“I think we had the stigma of ‘dead end job’ or ‘freaking burger,'” Murphy said. “But people make careers and lives and get quite rich doing a business like this.”

Entry-level jobs at local McDonald’s offer a starting salary of around $10 an hour, the chance to earn tuition assistance after 90 days of work, and the chance to earn paid time off.

Andrea Johnson, general manager of a local McDonald’s, said she took pride in her job because she was able to support herself while attending college online. But she often feels like people diminish her work just because he’s in fast food.

“A lot of people think it’s just burgers and fries,” Johnson said. “You have to understand that we give breakfast to the mother who goes to work and who probably cannot eat at home. We have entire families who come to dinner because they can’t do anything else.

Johnson has worked for the company since 2002, and she slowly rose from the position of cashier. In her nearly two decades with McDonald’s, she said she gained confidence in herself and her abilities.

“I learned about customer service, how to make sure customers come in and leave happy. I learned how to train my crew members and also developed my management skills,” she said .

McDonald’s also offered him $3,000 in tuition assistance through its Archways of Opportunity program, so Johnson was recently able to begin pursuing college online through the University of Colorado.

Murphy said he believes sharing stories like his and Andrea’s is the only way to change the public misconception about fast food jobs.

This week, McDonald’s announced that it hopes to hire more than 800 workers at its restaurants in the Montgomery metro area over the holidays. In May, the fast-food chain made a similar announcement of 1,500 job openings in Montgomery and 3,000 statewide.

The question that remains, however, is whether there are 800 workers at Montgomery ready to fill these positions.

“We know there are a lot of job seekers looking for opportunities,” said Alabama Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington. “It would be a great opportunity for these job seekers to not only get a job, but also land a rewarding career.”

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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