A 94-year-old woman has been working at McDonalds for more than four decades, and the length of her career reveals a harsh reality faced by many fast food workers.
Loraine Maurer and her co-workers in Evansville, Indiana, celebrated her 44-year run as a McDonald's employee this week. "Loraine has quite a following. That's to say the least, really," restaurant owner Katie Kenworthy told ABC News. "She has lots of very loyal costumers who come especially to our restaurant to see her."
Maurer said that she started working part-time at McDonalds in 1973 when she was 50 years old due to her husband's retirement because of a disability. "When I started, I didn't start to stay," she told ABC News. "I told him we were too young to stay at home and so I went for a job."
In 2015, more than 20 million people were "near minimum wage workers," and the restaurant and food service industry was the biggest employer of this type of worker, according to Pew Research Center. The federal minimum wage is the lowest a state is allowed to pay workers, and in 1973 the federal minimum wage was $1.60, which comes out to $8.78 today when adjusted for inflation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index.
In 2017, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, and it hasn't been changed since 2009. When adjusted for inflation, it actually has less value than it did in 1973. Although, most states have passed its own minimum wage laws that are higher than the federal minimum wage, the wages for low-income workers are often too low to pay for basic needs.
People who worked in fast food restaurants were more likely to live below or near the poverty line, according to a 2013 report by the University of California Berkeley Labor Center. Because of low earnings, more than half of the families of full-time fast food workers used public assistance programs.
Raising the federal minimum wage would likely boost the pay of all low-income workers.
"If we had raised the federal minimum wage at the same pace as productivity growth since 1968, the high point of the federal minimum wage in inflation-adjusted terms, it would be over $19 [per] hour today," David Cooper, a senior economic analyst at the Economic Policy Institute, told ATTN: in November. "That means that anyone making less than $19 [per] hour today is potentially making less than what the economy could have afforded them, if we had adopted different policies over the last 48 years."