New York, NY – This week, the mighty McDonald’s empire officially cried “uncle,” announcing its vast, french fry-fueled resources will no longer be used to oppose the Fight for $15 movement and its nationwide campaign to boost the minimum wage. It’s a clear victory for U.S. workers — but the win is about a lot more than what goes on underneath the Golden Arches. It’s further confirmation that opposition to workplace justice is universally all about greed.
Before the fast food giant made its announcement earlier this week, a sign appeared in the window of a McDonald’s outlet located at Parkside and Ocean avenues in Brooklyn urging job seekers to, “Join Our Team! If You’re AWESOME Apply Here!” Underneath the cheery inducement, a $15 an hour minimum wage topped a list of tasty incentives that also included, health insurance, sick time, college tuition assistance and discounted employee meals.
Here was part of a fast food chain that, for so long, had vehemently and doggedly opposed paying workers at least $15 an hour, citing all manner of economic evils and nightmare scenarios — wholeheartedly embracing the wage hike and actually touting it as the number one benefit of working at McDonald’s. It’s a turnaround so severe it could give Ronald McDonald a wicked case of whiplash to go with the ugly red grin and ketchup-colored perm.
To put a finer point on the situation — the thing that McDonald’s and the rest of the fast food kings reviled as an industry killer, is now being used as an indispensable recruitment tool to attract the enthusiastic workforce needed to operate their businesses.
“McDonald’s decision to no longer use its power, influence and deep pockets to block minimum wage increases shows the power workers have when we join together, speak out and go on strike,” Kansas City McDonald’s worker and Fight for $15 leader Terrence Wise said in a statement this past week. “It’s also a recognition that the position to fight minimum wage increases tooth and nail that the company clung to for so long is no longer tenable.”
“No longer tenable.” Did Ronald’s bosses suddenly experience an epiphany about how raising the minimum wage could help their business by attracting and retaining an enthusiastic workforce? Nope. They knew that all along, but chose, instead, to denounce raising the minimum wage out of simple greed — attempting to camouflage their avarice inside super-sized orders of fear and hysteria about an imagined economic meltdown.
As cities and towns across the U.S. have demonstrated time and again since the Fight for $15 movement got started here in New York City some seven years ago, raising the minimum wage is not a jobs killer, nor is it in any way detrimental the greater restaurant industry.
Again, just check out those McDonald’s restaurants already touting a $15 an hour minimum wage to attract job seekers.
“By sticking together and taking action on the job, courageous workers in the Fight for $15 and a Union have forced McDonald’s – the second-biggest employer in the world – to drop its relentless opposition to higher pay,” SEIU President Mary Kay Henry said in a statement this week. “Now, McDonald’s needs to use its profits and power to give thousands of cooks and cashiers across the country a real shot at the middle class by raising pay to $15 an hour and respecting its workers’ right to a union. It needs to follow the lead of companies like Target and Costco who pay $15 so that workers don’t have to stitch together two and three jobs in order to support themselves and their families. We’re going to continue to support the fearless workers in the Fight for $15 and a Union who are showing us the way to an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy.”
In 2012, at the inception of the Fight for $15 movement, the minimum wage in New York City stood at just $7.25 an hour. Despite the bosses crying bloody murder, proponents of boosting the minimum wage knew that paying workers $15 an hour was the least that could be done. Just like proponents of an eight-hour work day and the weekend knew that those things were the very least that could be done. In both those seminal instances, the titans of industry cried foul and forecast gloom and doom for the country. And no matter what fights still lay ahead, the boss’ initial impulse will always be to cry and moan, and spew fictitious narratives.
The American worker must remain undaunted.
The federal minimum wage still stands at a pitiful $7.25 an hour, while fear-mongering opponents of a $15 an hour minimum wage continue to bleat out their stale, tired arguments. But they, like Ronald McDonald himself, understand that’s it’s all a sham — and that all the protestations and lamentations are actually just vain attempts to conceal a deeply-rooted distain for sharing the wealth.
Struggling workers everywhere fighting hard to retain the tiniest sliver of a vanishing American Dream should understand that, as well.
Said Wise, “Workers from New York to Illinois to California — nearly 30-percent of the U.S. workforce — have won $15/hr, and companies from Costco to Target have done the right thing and adopted a $15 minimum wage. It’s clear that $15 is the minimum any worker, anywhere, needs to get by. It’s time for McDonald’s to join the growing list of companies that pay $15/hr. It’s also time the company respect our right to a union. Since day one, we’ve called for $15 and union rights and we’re not going to stop marching, speaking out and striking until we win both.”