Bill Knight column for Mon., Tues., or Wed., April 13, 14 or 15
In New York, the first hearings over alleged labor law violations by McDonald’s and its franchisees started this month in the next phase of a union-backed campaign aimed at bringing McDonald’s to the bargaining table over wages and working conditions.
The first phase was protesting nationwide, a tactic to occur again this week, as the group “Fight for 15” announced that 60,000 fast-food workers in 200 cities planned to strike on income tax day, April 15, demonstrating for wages of $15/hour, improved working conditions and the right to unionize.
Backed by many organizations, workers planned to walk out of McDonald's and other fast-food chains, said organizers, who added that they anticipated supporters to protest on more than 160 college campuses, other underpaid workers – from temporary teachers to home health care workers – will take part in picketing, and sympathy strikes in other countries are expected.
In a related development, McDonald’s new CEO, Steve Easterbrook, recently announced that the fast-food giant will raise wages to $1 above whatever minimum wage exists at its company-owned locations, starting July 1.
“By the end of 2016, we project that the average hourly wage rate for McDonald’s employees at company-owned restaurants will be in excess of $10,” Easterbrook said in a prepared statement. “In addition, we’re offering paid personal time off for any reason to restaurant crew members who have been with us for at least one year.”
The U.S. minimum wage is $7.25/hour; Illinois’ is $8.25/hour. Some 20 states and several cities have raised their minimum wages, including Chicago (to $10/hour) and Seattle (to $11/hour).
Mickey D’s wage increase will benefit about 90,000 workers, but that’s less than 10 percent of McDonald’s labor force in its 1,500-plus U.S. locations, which altogether employ about 750,000 workers. It’s unknown whether McDonald’s modest move will have a ripple effect throughout the fast-food industry, but worker advocates say it’s insufficient, regardless of its influence on competitors.
“McDonald’s was forced to pay up,” said Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which has been backing workers’ effort. “It’s not nearly enough.”
As to the hearings, they stem from more than 100 complaints and Unfair Labor Practice charges about McDonald’s retaliating against workers whose “concerted activities” are protected under federal law. The “Fight for 15” campaign also is suing the fast-food giant in state and federal courts, and complained to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) about unsafe working conditions there.
The Administrative Law Judge presiding over the New York hearing also will handle hearings in Chicago and Los Angeles at later dates.
In related news, McDonald’s continues to object to the National Labor Relations Board ruling last July that the corporation is a joint employer with franchisees who, McDonald’s claims, are independent owner-operators who set their own policies and wages.
Fight For 15 director Kendall Fells said the campaign will continue “until workers get what they’ve been fighting for.”
Meanwhile, here in Illinois, some of the fallout from Rauner’s severe cuts is starting to register, and the idea that drastic cuts are possible without affecting regular people or local communities is apparent. Downstate Illinois municipalities and counties will be hard hit, for example. The Fiscal Policy Center at the advocacy group Voices for Illinois Children listed the following Local Government Distributive funds at risk for governments that could lose $1 million or more: Bloomington ($3.7 million), East Moline ($1 million), East Peoria ($1.1 million), Galesburg ($1.5 million), Moline ($2.1 million), Normal ($2.5 million, Peoria-city ($5.6 million), Peoria-county ($1.8 million), Quincy ($2 million), and Rock Island ($1.9 million). Statewide programs to suffer slashed funding range from the $250 million Road Fund and the Renewable Energy Resources Fund ($98 million) to even the Used Tire Management Fund ($20 million).
[PICTURED: Demonstrators outside an Elgin, Ill., McDonald's. Photo from Northern Illinois Jobs With Justice.]