McDonald’s cooks and cashiers in 16 cities went on strike last Wednesday, the day before the company’s annual shareholders meeting, to demand the burger giant pay every worker across the McDonald’s system a living wage of at least $15 an hour.
As fast-food workers joined together outside McDonald’s stores across the country – including a boisterous march outside its downtown Chicago headquarters – Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined strikers virtually to voice their support.
‘You are doing exactly what you need to do to not only raise wages and create dignified work for yourselves,’ Ocasio-Cortez said to the strikers, ‘frankly you’re doing this for the entire industry.
‘You’re inspiring workers across the country that work in the general fast food and greater hospitality industry at large to realise you deserve better …
‘Keep doing it. Keep pushing. We’re going to keep going until not only we get a $15 minimum wage, but we’re going to keep going until you get a union.’
Workers went on strike last Wednesday in Chicago, Detroit, Durham, Fayetteville, Flint, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, Oakland, Orlando, San Francisco, St Louis, Tampa and Woodbridge (Va.).
McDonald’s worker Nahshon Blount told workers on the picket line in Durham: ‘Tomorrow there will be the shareholders meeting where a bunch of millionaires come together to discuss how they’ll distribute their profits.
‘We’re here to let you know today, McDonald’s we ARE your profits.
‘We’re the ones who make the burgers, the fries and everything inside the store … so why are you paying us poverty wages?’
McDonald’s employees in Durham had joined the national strike to demand a higher minimum wage as many fast-food companies struggle to retain workers during the pandemic.
The protest at the 2700 Guess Road location was also joined by members of worker advocate groups such as Siembra, NC Poor People’s Campaign, Sunrise Movement and others.
North Carolina’s current minimum wage is $7.25 an hour and has remained at that rate for nearly 12 years.
Last week, the fast-food giant revealed that it would raise pay to an average of $15 an hour by the end of June at 650 company-owned stores in the US, as many restaurants struggle to retain and hire new workers.
Only 5% of McDonald’s stores in the US are owned directly by the company.
‘McDonald’s said they are giving raises to workers at their corporate stores – but that’s only about 5% of McDonald’s stores. That leaves out 95% of McDonald’s workers, like me,’ said Precious Cole, who emceed Wednesday’s rally, she went on:
‘Today we are demanding $15 an hour for every single worker who puts on a McD’s uniform!
‘McDonald’s can afford it – they made $5 billion in profit last year off of our hard, hard work!
‘But they gave most of that money to their shareholders instead of giving workers a raise. Today, we let them know, we aren’t giving up until all McDonald’s workers have $15 and a union.’
McDonald’s said it didn’t have data on wages at franchised restaurants but is asking franchisees to follow its lead.
Strikers also called on the company to withdraw membership from the National Restaurant Association and the International Franchise Association.
The protest came as there is a nationwide spotlight on a minimum wage, especially in the food industry.
Meanwhile, cutting unemployment benefits won’t bring back workers – but will hurt millions of families, new research has found.
A total of around 3.5 million workers are set to lose supplemental funding in a Republican Party-led push to decrease financial support (benefits) for unemployed Americans.
In the wake of a disappointing April jobs report, which showed that a mere 266,000 new jobs were created, even with a record high 8.1 million job openings in the economy, 22 states – all with Republican governors – have announced plans to wind down supplemental $300 weekly unemployment benefit payments ahead of the programme’s scheduled end in September.
Analysis released from Oxford Economics paints a grim picture about the results of those actions: A total of around 3.5 million workers will lose that supplemental funding.
Since most of those states also plan to discontinue other pandemic-triggered expanded unemployment programmes for gig workers and those who had exhausted regular state benefits, roughly 2.5 million would lose access to unemployment payments entirely.
The impact would be on the order of $8 billion a month for the remaining duration of the benefit expansion.
Governors curtailing these programmes before the scheduled September 6th expiration date have said they are doing so because businesses in their states are struggling to find workers.
Labour economists reject this line of thinking, disputing the idea that roughly $1,200 a month is enough inducement to keep people home in the face of ongoing health and caregiving hurdles.
‘Yes, it has some marginal impacts, but people think that child care responsibilities and Covid hesitation are a bigger effect,’ said Jeff Strohl, director of research at the Georgetown University Centre on Education and the Workforce.
Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at The Century Foundation, said the combination of intermittently open schools and day care facilities has made it harder not only for parents to plan a return to the workforce, but to embark on the search for a new job in the first place.
‘Capacity for child care has been reduced, and people are still getting used to their new reality,’ he said.
Contrary to lawmakers’ assertions, a growing body of research has found unemployment benefits have little to no impact on people’s motivation to seek work.
One widely cited study conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago last summer found that, rather than disincentivising jobless workers, unemployment benefits prompted them to job-hunt even harder.
‘Those currently receiving UI benefits search intensely for new work, and their effort appears to be somewhat greater than that of the unemployed not receiving benefits,’ the researchers wrote.
A February study from the University of Chicago found that not only did more generous jobless benefits not curb people’s propensity to seek jobs, it also generated among those households an unexpected increase in spending.
‘These spending and job finding facts suggest that benefit expansions during the pandemic were a more effective policy than predicted by standard structural models,’ the study’s authors wrote.
But with a cut in unemployment benefits, Stettner predicted that these states’ economic activity will fall. ‘It’s going to slow down the recovery, especially in some of the harder-hit areas with high unemployment rates – that’s where it’s going to hurt the most. These benefits have been really important,’ he said.
The unique nature of pandemic-triggered job losses have made it more difficult to measure as well as predict how the jobs recovery will continue to unfold.
‘We’re not talking about a traditional skills gap,’ Strohl said. ‘There’s still tremendous churn going on. ‘We’re talking about a labour shortage, but not a skills gap.’
- An effort backed by the New York State AFL-CIO union federation would create a new bargaining scheme for app-based workers without addressing the question of whether or not these workers are legally ‘employees’.
A draft version of the legislation is being negotiated by unions and app employers.
Workers for apps like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash are currently considered independent contractors; most in the labour movement consider them misclassified, a tactic the companies use to avoid paying the full cost of benefits.
These workers are blocked from unionising by anti-trust laws, and don’t have the protection of the National Labour Relations Board (or many other protections).
To sidestep this, the draft legislation would enact a new process to recognise unions and bargain agreements – relying on the state government to enact the negotiated ‘recommendations’ as regulations.
But the draft bill includes much to give labour activists pause, and marks a departure from the national push against misclassification.
‘It’s about creating a distraction and a real carve-out from the PRO Act,’ said Bhairavi Desai, director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance.
The federal PRO Act, which much of the labour movement is pushing for, would sidestep the question of misclassification but allow independent contractors to unionise under certain conditions using the National Labour Relations Act.
New York State Senator Jessica Ramos, chair of the Labor Committee, has just released a statement that she will not be backing the draft bill because: ‘We will not legitimise any company union. We will not undermine the PRO Act.’