On May 16 2021, Twitter user Derenic Byrd (@DerenicByrd) shared an image of a hiring banner advertising $18 an hour at McDonald’s, but with an ominous asterisk:
The Image and its Origin
The sign, composed in the chain’s signature red, yellow, and white, included a logo and read:
[McDonald’s] NOW HIRING
Starting At $18.00/hr*
Check Website for Details When Applying
Byrd didn’t specify whether he captured the image or saw it somewhere, and we saw no identifying information. The sign didn’t even include a specific website or a franchise store number, and the four visible cars’ tags were not visible (enabling us to narrow the search to a single state).
In the text part of the tweet, Byrd wrote:
See what happens when employers have a hard time finding workers…..? They can afford to pay you.
On May 17 2021, a Facebook account shared a screenshot of Byrd’s tweet. That post was shared thousands of times, but none of the Twitter or Facebook responses we located included any reports of sightings or claims of recognizing the site of the purported $18 an hour hiring banner.
We first spotted the image on May 17 2021, but were unable to retrieve any matches aside from retweets on Byrd’s tweet.
As of May 19 2021, one reverse image search engine still returned zero results for the image (and some of the scant iterations were deleted). Google Image Search was slightly more populated, returning additional screenshots shared to Reddit’s r/antiwork:
Discourse on all three posts trended toward raising the federal minimum wage; one Twitter commenter shared a TikTok clip of a “debate” on the topic:
Another extremely common comment involved the “heavy lifting” being done by the asterisk in “Starting At $18.00/hr*,” suggestive of a possible bait-and-switch situation or atypical condition.
Photoshopping Possibility and Additional Searching
Due to our initial inability to find additional information, we considered the possibility the image had been edited somewhere down the line before it went viral (like changing a “3” to an “8” in the $18.)
We were unable to find evidence the image had been edited. Nevertheless, it was odd that the sign lacked information about the referenced website, raising another possibility — the sign was a form of culture jamming or protest intended to advance support for raising the minimum wage.
One relevant result was a May 13 2021 MarketWatch piece reporting:
The burger giant said [on May 13 2021 that] it would increase wages for more than 36,500 hourly workers by an average of 10% over the next several months. Nonmanagerial workers at the chain’s roughly 660 company-owned restaurants in the U.S. would earn at least $11 to $17 an hour at entry levels after the increases, McDonald’s said. Supervisors would earn an hourly minimum of $15 to $20. Nonmanagerial employees at company-owned stores earlier this year earned an average of nearly $12 an hour, McDonald’s said, and supervisors earned some $16 to $18 an hour.
Three days before Byrd’s tweet, McDonald’s disclosed it planned to raise wages 10 percent on average, citing a starting wage of $11 to $17 for entry-level workers and $15 to $20 for supervisors. That didn’t exclude the possibility of a starting wage of $18 in high cost-of-living areas — but the asterisk was still iffy.
A solitary job opening on what was presumably “the website” appeared in our search results, a vacancy for a “Shift Manager” in Oak Harbor, Washington posted to the site careers.mcdonalds.com. $18 was mentioned in the posting:
Along with competitive pay, a Shift Manager with our companys’ restaurants is eligible for incredible benefits including:
• 1 weeks paid vacation
• Education through Archways to Opportunity including opportunities to earn a High School degree, college tuition assistance and English classes as a second language
• Medical, dental and vision coverage available
• Short- and Long-Term Disability, life and accident insurance available
Pay starts at $16 an hour for certified managers and up to $18 an hour is possible.
If the sign was real and unaltered, it was consistent with the “$18 an hour*” verbiage; $18 was “possible” for applicants to the position of McDonald’s shift manager in Oak Harbor, Washington. We also searched the suburbs of New York City, a high cost-of living area, on the same site.
Although positions for a “Shift Manager” were advertised, no hourly rate was included by those franchisees.
A viral image of a McDonald’s “$18.00/hr*” hiring banner circulated on Twitter and Facebook as part of discourse over the federal minimum wage — namely serving as proof that low-wage chains could afford to pay more if labor was scarce. The sign curiously lacked standard methods of contact, which would have made verification easier by narrowing down the location. Although we found one management-level job listing with a top wage of $18 an hour, we were unable to determine whether the sign was real or where it was posted; therefore, we are currently rating it Unknown.