By Jorge A. Bañales
Washington, May 19 (EFE).- McDonald’s workers went on strike Wednesday in 15 cities across the United States to demand a minimum wage of $15 an hour, a job action that comes as the company is struggling to find new employees.
Held a day before the multinational corporation’s annual shareholders’ meeting, the strikes took place in Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Chicago, Detroit, Flint, Kansas City, St. Louis, Raleigh-Durham, Fayetteville, Houston and Milwaukee, organizers said.
A protest also took place outside McDonald’s corporate headquarters in Chicago.
The strikes coincide with a strong first-quarter US sales rebound for the fast-food giant, while the country’s current tight labor market has made it more difficult for the company and its franchisees to attract workers.
McDonald’s employees have been pushing for a $15 an hour minimum wage and the right to organize themselves into a union since 2012.
McDonald’s restaurants in many parts of the US are offering a bonus of up to $500 to new employees, while Blake Casper, the owner of a franchise of 60 locations in the Tampa, Florida, area, is offering potential employees $50 just for showing up for a job interview.
At the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, the average annual before-tax salary of a full-time McDonald’s employee is just $13,920.
McDonald’s recently raised wages at company-owned stores to $11 an hour for entry-level employees and to at least $15 an hour for shift managers, thereby lifting the pay of the average worker by 10 percent.
But that change does not apply to franchises and thus only affects 5 percent of McDonald’s restaurants in the US.
“If McDonald’s can afford to pay its CEO over $10 million in compensation and spend billions on stock buybacks to award its wealthy shareholders and executives, you know what? It can afford to pay all of its workers at least $15 an hour. I’m proud to support the workers on strike,” Bernie Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont and two-time presidential candidate, said on Wednesday in a message to the participants in the job action.
McDonald’s, for its part, said in a statement that its “first responsibility is to hardworking restaurant crew, and we respect and appreciate their dedication to serve millions of customers daily.”
“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.”
The workforce of McDonald’s and similar businesses has changed in recent years, with those companies attracting fewer teenagers and low-skilled employees and more immigrants, mostly women.
“It’s because of our work that McDonald’s has stayed open during this pandemic. It’s time they recognize our efforts with a fair salary and fair conditions,” Imelda Rosales, a Hispanic woman who has been an employee of that restaurant chain for the past 11 years, told Efe.
The 53-year-old mother of four said her pay now exceeds $15 an hour but that her hours have been cut and that staff with longer tenure are being replaced by new hires.
“It took a lot of sacrifice to obtain my salary, but now they prefer to bring in young people and pay them less and make you think they’re raising salaries, but it’s not true,” she said. EFE