.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

a restaurant dishwasher. daily or monthly) that an employer is legally allowed to pay his or her employees. and a gas station attendant. Examples of jobs with government established minimum wage salaries are the front desk workers at college dormitories. Observations for this study were carried out in two different locations. I chose to observe at these two settings because one is located near a large college campus and is also very close to the downtown business district of . This loss of value and the significantly high number of people employed at minimum wage are contributing factors to the continuously increasing level of poverty in the US. and any family member. the minimum wage has been risen from $0. The purpose of this study was to grasp an understanding of what it is like to hold jobs that are not highly desirable and yet only be paid a small salary for the work that is done. In the United States.Ethnography The concept studied in this ethnography was minimum wage work. Minimum wage work is often characterized as “skilled labor” and includes the completion of unwanted.15 (in 2005). especially because the small income is not a sufficient salary that would provide people with a substantial lifestyle to live off of. called Dublin.75 (in 1950) to $5. the basic necessities needed for survival (for example food and shelter). despite that increase. The first location I observed is located on High Street and the second is located in a suburb of Columbus. however. Minimum wage is the lowest possible wage (whether that be by the hour. However. the exact value is actually lower because as the minimum wage level has been increased by the federal government. minuscule tasks. however both were at a McDonald’s restaurant. fast food workers. others argue that the existence of a federal minimum wage adds to an increased unemployment rate among younger people and unskilled workers. Supporters of the establishment of a federal minimum wage believe and promote that this system aids in the reduction of exploitation and also that it guarantees workers the ability to provide for themselves. the value of the US dollar has decreased.

yet had an industrial-like and sterile atmosphere about it. which were done following my observation time) because I did not want people’s behaviors to be influenced (positively or negatively) by an awareness of my observations.Hunter Columbus. . of the first. I chose to do so from a “third person” point of view. I thought it would enhance the quality and overall accuracy of my observations because the communities surrounding the two locations are so different from each other. When conducting my interviews. I conducted my observation on a Saturday between 11:00am-2:00pm. Also. in terms of décor. one person working the pick-up window and three other people working at that time. between 1:00-3:00 pm. I observed at this location on a Monday afternoon. one person working the pick-up window and two other workers. and the other is located in a developed suburb about 20 minutes away. there was a soccer tournament being held in town. I was sure to remain completely neutral and made the questions broad enough so that they could be individually subjective and free of influence from my personal opinions. four cashiers. unlike the second 2 McDonalds observed. so it was very crowded and the restaurant had one manager. The first location was clean. two cashiers. this McDonalds has a very warm and inviting atmosphere. there were multicolored tiles on the floor. the booths and tables were a combination of white and grey and the only color throughout the dining area was randomly placed "McDonalds" logos. The second location was almost the opposite. this one had an indoor play-place for children. The two restaurants were very different from each other. The walls were painted. I thought that these specific locations would increase my chances of observing a variety of both workers and customers. I did not interact or socialize with employees or customers (with the exception of interviews. not only McDonald’s logos) and a fireplace completed the dining room. On this particular weekend. Also. The walls were a stark white. Located in the upscale suburb of Dublin. grey tiles covered the floors. When observing. and the restaurant was staffed with one manager. nice decorations throughout (fake flowers and photographs.

he was by far the least welcoming to customers. while others were conversations about non-work related topics. there were employees who gathered food for eat-in customers. When asked about the relationships between the employees. such as joking around. She also said that they are willing to help one another because employees of McDonalds are all a part of the same “team” and they are there to professionally support one another. Also. I also observed the different jobs assigned. behavior or action was specific to only one of any of those three categories. The managers (at both locations) were the “over-lookers” of the front counter (where the orders were placed by walk-in customers) and at the second location the manager prepared the items for the pick-up window. All of the workers seemed to work well together. I also observed many circumstances in which employees interacted with one another. not one characteristic. . The most general observation I noticed was of the way in which the employees interacted with customers. seen at both locations. some were a person asking for extra help or other questions pertaining to work. age. one female employee (from the second location) said that employees interact with each other. well-mannered and willing to help the customers. at both locations. These interactions included a variety of situations. etc. because it helps the time go by faster and the “boring” tasks are not as difficult to get through. restocked the condiments station and picked-up around the restaurant. gender. at the first location the exception was a white male teenager who did not want to socialize with any other workers and of all the employees observed. I found that the majority of the employees (with the 3 exception of one at the first location) were polite. Also. The cashiers had the most personal interaction with customers. however.) and unlike commonly held stereotypes about the type of people who work the minimum wage jobs. the workers at both locations had noticeably different characteristics (physical – race. Along with teamwork.Hunter My observations were not very specific because I was interested in the overall characteristics of people who work at the minimum wage rather than a specific characteristic or action.

From my interview with a cashier at the first location.Hunter Aside from the employees. . I did not observe any obvious forms of rude behavior or 4 discrimination towards employees. Most of the workers consider themselves lucky to have a job. He also said that everyone has to start somewhere and that even though he has to make sacrifices to live off of the low salary. I inferred that the job title and salary were not as important as the luxury of having a job. Most customers appeared to be in a hurry. and motivation (low-paid and unskilled workers have little or no drive to “make something” of themselves). education (rather lack there of). some are using the income to support themselves and their families while others are working to save for the future. I asked customers if they had any stereotypes about those who worked in minimum wage jobs. The customers seemed to respond in a manner that reflected the one in which they were approached with by the employee. such as Mexican). I learned a great deal about the concept of minimum wage work and how it relates to sociology. it also enhances the opportunity for the success of others. Despite these stereotypes expressed in the interviews. less-educated (some still in school or saving for further education) and less-skilled than others in our society’s competitive corporate world. One difference I did notice about the customers at the two different locations is that at the first location. he is confident that he is building his future. most employees hired are younger. the customers were more likely to leave trash on the floor or not tuck-in a chair than those at the second location. customers seemed more aware of and concerned about the mess they were leaving behind. but remained polite and patient. Their answers were all related to three topics: race (specifically blacks and minority racial groups. At the second location. From my observations. Although the minimum wage job market does contribute to poverty in the United States. I also observed the ways in which the customers acted. In my interviews. McDonalds is a location where employees begin earning minimum wage (however advancement and salary increases are a possibility) and as gathered from the interviews.

We studied stratification and this relates to minimum wage because those typically hired into these jobs (young. People working at minimum wage level are taking advantage of the opportunities available to them to sustain an income and plan for the future. the working conditions of minimum wage employees were observed. structured ranking (upper. and the treatment of the workers all play a significant role in the analysis of my observations. working. Sociology: a Brief Introduction. In conclusion. Although there are stereotypes held about those people working minimum wage jobs. their life chances may not be as fortunate as a child who grew up with both parents in a middle class environment. middle. The two people interviewed at the first location both came from singleparent families (raised by their mothers) who struggled financially and because of this. less-educated individuals) oftentimes come from working-class families and as seen within the concept of stratification. New York: McGraw-Hill. Minimum wage work is also characteristic of a capitalist society because McDonalds is a privately owned corporation and the incentives for working there (based primarily on information gathered from interviews) is different for each individual. . Throughout this study. poor classes) leads to an unequal balance of opportunity in society. The physical location of the restaurant. 2006. Richard T. but because it offered an opportunity for economic growth and stability. but all are relative to each 5 other in the sense that the employees took the jobs for economic purposes. this observation provides audiences with the opportunity to see that these workers are not defined by the labor they perform. to “make something” of themselves. I found that those working a minimum wage job are doing so for personal reasons but in general terms the job was not taken as a desirable one.Hunter My observations also shed light on our class’ discussion of the challenges that those with less educational and economical opportunity face. specifically as an attempt to get ahead or. ironically in relation to stereotypes. Works Cited Schaefer. interaction amongst employees and employers.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful

Master Your Semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Special offer for students: Only $4.99/month.

Master Your Semester with a Special Offer from Scribd & The New York Times

Cancel anytime.