La­bor is­sues to pres­sure McDon­ald’s de­spite pay bump


A pay bump for work­ers at some McDon­ald’s restau­rants isn’t likely to ease the pres­sures the chain is fac­ing over la­bor is­sues.

McDon­ald’s said Wed­nes­day it would raise wages for work­ers at its com­pa­ny­owned U. S. restau­rants, which rep­re­sent only about 10 per­cent of more than 14,300 lo­ca­tions. It also said it would of­fer paid time off for some work­ers.

The move marks the first time McDon­ald’s has set a na­tional pol­icy on wages, ac­cord­ing to the com­pany, and comes af­ter it has been a pri­mary tar­get for on­go­ing demon­stra­tions for pay of US$15 and a union. Other com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing Wal-Mart Stores Inc., have also an­nounced pay hikes in an im­prov­ing econ­omy and at a time when worker is­sues are get­ting wide­spread at­ten­tion.

Im­me­di­ately af­ter the an­nounce­ment by McDon­ald’s, how­ever, la­bor or­ga­niz­ers de­nounced it as a pub­lic­ity strat­egy that did lit­tle to im­prove the sit­u­a­tions of work­ers.

“Rais­ing wages only a lit­tle for only a small frac­tion isn’t change. It’s a PR stunt,” said Kwanza Brooks, a McDon­ald’s worker in North Carolina, on a con­fer­ence call set up by or­ga­niz­ers.

Protests were planned for McDon­ald’s stores in about 24 cities across the coun­try Thurs­day, although turnout for the events have var­ied in the past. In New York City, a crowd of about 30 peo­ple gath­ered out­side a McDon­ald’s across the street from the Em­pire State Build­ing be­fore march­ing sev­eral blocks to an­other McDon­ald’s. Demon­stra­tors filed into the lo­ca­tion while chant­ing and wav­ing signs with phrases like, “McDon­ald’s: Where’s My Raise?” be­fore they were quickly ush­ered out by po­lice.

A cus­tomer who was in­side the store buy­ing lunch, Rich Ro­man, said he didn’t sup­port the push and that he dis­liked unions.

“They make ev­ery­thing es­ca­late in price,” he said.

In ad­di­tion to the push to raise public aware­ness, the Fight for US$15 cam­paign, which is be­ing spear­headed by the Ser­vice Em­ploy­ees In­ter­na­tional Union, has been pres­sur­ing McDon­ald’s on mul­ti­ple legal fronts. This week, the Na­tional La­bor Re­la­tions Board be­gan a hear­ing on com­plaints that named McDon­ald’s as a joint em­ployer over al­leged vi­o­la­tions at fran­chised restau­rants.

The case is ex­pected to be a lengthy battle and is a re­flec­tion of a pri­mary goal of or­ga­niz­ers: to hold McDon­ald’s Corp. accountable for la­bor prac­tices at its fran­chised lo­ca­tions. McDon­ald’s em­pha­sized its po­si­tion that it doesn’t have con­trol over em­ploy­ment de­ci­sions at those restau­rants Wed­nes­day when it said fran­chisees “make their own de­ci­sions on pay and benefits.”

In a phone in­ter­view, McDon­ald’s USA Pres­i­dent Mike An­dres said few McDon­ald’s work­ers have par­tic­i­pated in the demon­stra­tions and that the ac­tions haven’t hurt the com­pany. “They’re not tak­ing a toll,” he said. In­stead, he said the de­ci­sion to hike pay and pro­vide paid- time off at com­pa­ny­owned restau­rants was driven by the mar­ket­place.

“It’s a very com­pet­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment and a sig­nif­i­cant ra­tio­nale for this plan is that we want to be the most com­pet­i­tive and at­trac­tive em­ployer,” he said.

Be­gin­ning on July 1, McDon­ald’s says start­ing wages will be a dollar more than the lo­cal min­i­mum wage where com­pa­ny­owned restau­rants are lo­cated. By the end of 2016, it said the av­er­age hourly wage for McDon­ald’s work­ers at those stores will be more than US$ 10 an hour, up from US$ 9 an hour.

The in­crease comes af­ter more than a dozen states and mul­ti­ple cities raised their min­i­mum wages last year, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Em­ploy­ment Law Project.

At com­pany- owned stores, McDon­ald’s says em­ploy­ees who have worked for at least a year and av­er­age of 20 hours a week will be el­i­gi­ble to ac­crue about 20 hours of paid time off a year.

McDon­ald’s Chief Ad­min­is­tra­tive Of­fi­cer Pete Bensen had said last month that a big part of the ef­fort to turn­around the com­pany’s strug­gling U. S. busi­ness would be what it is do­ing “around the em­ploy­ment im­age and our em­ployee- em­ployer re­la­tion­ship.”


Fast-food work­ers protest out­side a McDon­ald’s in Hous­ton, Texas on Thurs­day, April 2.

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