Boom Busters: Making Big Money at McDs?!

We heard McDonald’s was paying $20 an hour near the modern boom town, Sidney, Mont. — or was it $15… $18… $12?

MJR had a crew travel to Sidney consisting of Dameon Matule, Amy Sisk and me.  Before our 10-hour trek east to the Bakken Valley, everyone gave us a different number to a pivotal myth: how much do fast-food service workers actually make?

The myth involves more than fast food. The longstanding firms find positions hard to fill. We were told that potential workers would defect to the oil fields or the various high paying jobs associated with the oil industry — truck driving, welding and hydrofracking.

Dameon and I were on the search for an oil family outside Sidney when we ran into Steve Hennig, a semi-truck driver outside his camp trailer. Steve drives semi-trucks for Franz Construction and makes $22 an hour. I asked for his estimate on the fast food wage myth, and he thought employees get $18 an hour but that they make more over in Williston, N.D.

Vern Unger, a hotel clerk in Williston, echoed Steve’s prediction and added that some receive a $300 signing bonus. He said he received a bonus starting at the hotel, and he earns $14 an hour.

After a few days of guesstimates, rumors and hot air, we finally entered the Williston McDonald’s to find out for ourselves. The front door had a “Now Hiring” flier. After we ordered, I asked a Brazilian man working the counter how much he made. He said $9 an hour, which Amy remembered to be the same at the Sidney McDonald’s.

The $20 an hour McDonald’s myth is busted, but beginning wages are still decent and service jobs are plentiful in boom country.