McDonald’s announced last week that it would increase the hourly salary for workers at company-owned stores to $1 an hour higher than the local minimum wage. The announcement follows several other companies’ pay raises during the last several months, including Walmart, T.J. Maxx and its partner companies. Unfortunately, the raise only applies to the 90,000 company-operated store workers, not to the over 750,000 workers at McDonald’s franchises. The trend in private-sector pay increases in recent months is encouraging, but it has not gone far enough. Only a federal minimum wage increase will result in meaningful improvement for the
Recently there has been an uptick in criticism of McDonald’s wages. NYU students protested at two McDonald’s on Broadway and Sixth Avenue last Wednesday in a demonstration organized by the Student Labor Action Movement. SLAM protested in support of the Fight for $15 Campaign, which seeks to raise the minimum wage for workers across all industries.
The average minimum wage for McDonald’s employees in stores under company control will be around $9.90 by July. By comparison, the current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, which amounts to $15,080 annually. Even at $9.90 an hour, full-time workers will only make approximately $19,800 a year before taxes. Unfortunately, it is virtually impossible to live in New York City with that income. Another aspect of the problem is that many McDonald’s employees work part-time, and therefore are not entitled to many benefits that full-time workers receive such as retirement or health insurance. This further compounds the struggles these workers and their families face.
The lack of government action on this issue has left wage increases in the hands of private companies. In New York State, minimum wage increase measures were cut from the budget that was passed Wednesday. Republicans opposed the suggested wage increase from the current $8.75 an hour to $10.50 by 2017 and $11.50 in New York City. It was cut in order to gain bipartisan support for ethics and education reforms. Considering the potential impact of a minimum wage increase, this was too great a sacrifice.
McDonald’s is clearly attempting to appease employees, but it has not truly changed the standard of living in the way government action can. This is unsurprising given the fact that McDonald’s is a private company — expecting it to sacrifice profits is unreasonable. These recent minimal increases fail to solve the problems their employees face. Ultimately, an increase in state and federal minimum wage is what workers at all stores, franchised or not, require. While $15 an hour might not be a realistic number at this time, a substantial increase in the minimum wage will go a long way in improving the lives of the lowest paid workers.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 6 print edition. Email the WSN Editorial Board at [email protected]