A whopper of a job fair

It was insane Tuesday at the McDonald's tucked into Children's Hospital at 34th and Spruce Sts. yesterday. The place was jammed with people, most of them African American, who were looking for work. (Didn't see too many kids with wearing Penn regalia.)  

In a huge publicity drive, McDonald's trumpeted that it would try to hire 50,000 employees on Tuesday across the nation and including 1,325 for 284 stores in the greater Philadelphia area, including Allentown, Reading, Delaware, Atlantic County and Trenton N.J. There were an average of six openings per restaurant, although someone told an employee at the McDonald's at Children's Hospital that the staff there would double from 26.

Bobby Johnson
Bobby Johnson

Lots of people were looking for work. In fact, a McDonald's manager came scurrying into the building with a box full of empty applications to accommodate the crowd.  

Ka-rin George, a high school junior from South Philadelphia, wanted to land a job now to save up money for her senior prom and class dues. Kareem Smith had worked in another burger joint in West Philadelphia, but was laid off four months ago. He'd like to make some money sol he can pursue his real dream, a dual professional track that includes obtaining a commercial driver's license and being an emergency medical technician -- maybe he'd also be able to drive the ambulance.

Bobby Johnson, of Frankford, 17, was thrilled. He said he landed a job. He already works at a McDonald but wanted to transfer locations. 

Yes, they all said, the pay is low, but it is something. The unemployment rate for African American teenagers is 42.1 percent. Smith is definitely beyond his teenage years. Unemployment for African American men now stand at 16.8, compared to 8.8 percent for the population as a whole.

Are these good jobs? McDonald's says yes -- many franchise owners, they say, started out as McDonald's crew members and worked their way up. What's the pay? Not a lot. 

So was it a good day for McDonald's? No doubt there was a lot of positive publicity. Sales must have been awesome. By the time I got there at about 3:30, the place was still jammed and nearly everyone had a soda. Hmmm. What a concept.