By MARC H. MORIAL
“You’re only as good as the people you hire.”
Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s Corporation
In March, the American economy added 216,000 jobs and the unemployment rate fell to 8.8 percent, the lowest in two years. That is the good news. The bad news is that the nation has a mighty long way to go to recoup the 13 million jobs lost during the Great Recession. The real bad news is that with an unemployment rate of 15.5 percent for African Americans and 11.3 percent for Hispanics, communities of color seem to be fighting a losing battle to keep from being overwhelmed by the jobs crisis.
For more than two years, the National Urban League has led the call for a national response to extremely high unemployment throughout urban America. Our Jobs Rebuild America 12-point plan offers a blueprint for change. It calls for the restoration of the Summer Youth Jobs Program to provide summer jobs for millions of teens. We also propose greater public/ private investments in job training for those most at-risk for joblessness and least equipped to navigate their way back to gainful employment. And, while Washington thus far does not appear to be listening, we have sought and found allies elsewhere, including some in corporate America.
For example, we are pleased that this week, McDonald’s Corporation is launching an unprecedented hiring campaign, aimed at adding 50,000 new crew and management employees to its payrolls. The company plans to add three to four new workers to each of its 14,000 U.S. restaurants. In addition to providing a pathway back to the dignity of work, many of these new “McJobs” come with training, flexible work schedules, competitive benefits, scholarship opportunities and growth potential. The company points out that more than 75 percent of its restaurant managers and many of its corporate staff and executive leadership, including current company president, Jan Fields, started behind the counter.
McDonald’s projects that the addition of 50,000 new employees will boost the economies of states and local economies, which can likely expect an additional $430 million spent on housing, almost $186 million in taxes, and $180.5 million in grocery purchases.
African-American teens, 38.5 percent of whom are currently unemployed, may especially benefit from this hiring blitz. The unemployment rate for Black teens consistently hovers near 40 percent, the highest rate of any group in the country. In addition to putting thousands of Black teens on successful career paths, each year McDonald’s selects one high school student-employee from each state and the District of Columbia for $2,500 scholarships, as well as three national “McScholar” winners who each receive $5,000 scholarships.
The National Urban League will continue to push for federal action in response to the jobs crisis in urban America. In the meantime, we applaud McDonald’s for doing its part with its “National Hiring Day.” More jobs mean a stronger economy and a better future for our children, our neighbors, and our nation.
Marc H. Morial is the president and CEO of the National Urban League.