Last year, McDonalds made nearly $5 billion, which allowed it to increase dividends to shareholders and pay its CEO more than $10 million. A big win for them, but little for their employees.
That’s the ongoing complaint that led members of Stand Up KC and McDonald’s workers to take to the street on Walkout Wednesday. They joined McDonalds workers from 14 other cities in a strike against the company. These Fast-food workers, and others across the country, believe McDonald’s wealth comes from their hard work and are demanding to be paid a $15 hourly wage and a fast-food union.
FIGHT FOR $15
The strikes are backed by Fight for $15, a movement seeking a $15 wage and union rights for low-paid workers that is supported by the Service Employees International Union. Fight for $15 began when 200 fast-food workers went on strike in New York City in 2012. In today’s money, that $15 would be worth $17.50. So, if McDonald’s does raise its starting wage to $15, it will be meeting a demand made more modest by inflation.
This week, the company announced it would give pay increase of 10% over the next few months to employees at its company-owned restaurants, and expect their wages to rise to $15 per hour by 2024. But that increase will only apply to the 650 stores owned by the corporation, and not to the nearly 14,000 franchised stores, which are operated by independent business owners.
The company previously told Business Insider when the demonstrations were first planned that it depends on local governments for minimum wage laws.
“It’s the responsibility of federal and local government to set minimum wage, and we’re open to dialogue so that any changes meet the needs of thousands of hardworking restaurant employees and the 2,000 McDonald’s independent owner/operators who run small businesses,” a spokesperson said.
“The reality is McDonald’s is giving shareholders billions while ignoring workers who deserve $15,” the group said in a press release.
KANSAS CITY STRIKE
Kansas City strikers gathered at St. Mark Hope and Peace Lutheran Church, where they formed a car caravan to the McDonald’s on Main Street and the Wendy’s on Chipman Road in Lee’s Summit for their rally.
“We’re making history today,” said Terrence Wise, a leader with Stand Up KC and McDonald’s worker. “We’re following in the footsteps of the labor movement and civil rights movement that came before us. We’re paving the way for our kids and our grandkids to have a better life.”
Missouri Rep. Emily Weber (D-Kansas City) spoke at the rally in front of McDonald’s, where a crowd of local workers held signs that said, “Unionize,” “McDonald’s, Pay $15 Now” and “Fight for $15.”
Weber, a former retail and food industry worker, said she knows first-hand how taxing those jobs can be.
“I’m proud to stand here today with you because I know why you’re fighting. I’ve lived it,” Weber said to the crowd. “You’ve worked through a once-in-a-century pandemic, during a time of unprecedented uncertainty. Essential workers are so important, they had to put themselves in harm’s way to keep our society running and what did you get? You worked in dangerous conditions to take home a meager income to try to stay above water.”
Fight for $15 strikes were also held in Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Chicago, Detroit, Flint, St Louis, Raleigh-Durham, Fayetteville, Houston, and Milwaukee.
To further bring attention to their demands, the strike was planned the day before the company’s annual meeting.
The walkouts drew support from several high-profile progressive lawmakers, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez each virtually attended a Fight for $15 event in solidarity with the workers.
The solution, organizers say, is to keep the pressure on McDonalds and local leaders and legislators.
“It’s going to be a long fight, but we can do it as long as we stick together and we’re united,” Wise said.
The strikes come as fast-food restaurants struggle to hire enough workers. Some McDonalds are offering free meals and even cash for individuals to just show up for interviews.