Bloomberg News Wins January Sidney Award for Exposing Fat Profits at the Expense of Front-Line McDonald’s Workers

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By: Press Release | The Sidney Hillman Foundation

NEW YORK:  The Sidney Hillman Foundation announced today that Leslie Patton of Bloomberg News has won the January Sidney Award for a hard-hitting side-by-side profile of a McDonald’s fry cook and the company’s CEO. This “Tale of Two McDonald’s” shows how explosive growth of fast food has generated fat profits for executives and shareholders at the expense of front-line workers, who have been left behind.  

After 20 years on the job as a fry cook, Tyree Johnson earns just $8.25 an hour, minimum wage in Illinois. Johnson is lucky to scrape together 40 hours per week because neither of the two McDonald’s he works for will give him full-time hours. Johnson would have to work over a million hours to earn as much as the company’s last CEO, who took home $8.75 million last year.  

Johnson lives in a single room occupancy hotel with a shared bathroom. He is forced to wash in a McDonald’s restroom at the end of one shift so he can head to a second shift at another McDonald’s located about a mile away.  

“I hate when my boss tells me she won’t give me a raise because she can smell me,” he said.

Meanwhile, the CEO of McDonald’s, Don Thompson, who has roots near the Chicago housing project where Johnson grew up, and joined the company at about the same time, enjoys a private plane and investment counseling as part of his compensation package. He also purchased two condos in a tony Chicago neighborhood for $3.3 million.  

“The story was an important one to tell both about my beat and more broadly about growing income inequality,” said Leslie Patton, when asked if she was worried about writing such a critical story about an industry leader. “And the story was part of a Bloomberg series that examined how the top earners in this country have gained more than in past economic recoveries as the rich-poor gap has widened.”  

The divisions within the fast food sector are a microcosm of our increasingly unequal economy. Last year, the incomes of the top 1 percent of households rose by 5.5 percent, while the incomes of the bottom 80 percent fell by nearly 2 percent.  

Leslie Patton has worked for Bloomberg News for two-and-a-half years, mostly reporting on restaurants and other consumer companies. After receiving a BBA from the University of Michigan, she worked as a business analyst at Target Corp. for two years before going back to school. She earned an MSJ from Northwestern University in 2010.

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