Companies like McDonalds and Walmart have raised their workers’ minimum wages. While it is a step forward, Laura Clawson of the Daily Kos has documented that these raises still mean that workers need to rely on government support for child care, housing, medical insurance, breakfast/lunch programs for children, and heating assistance. Clawson then shows that none of these subsidies would be needed if employees were paid $15 an hour. As I noted in my last post, a small increase in price will have great benefits for all. As President Obama said, “America needs a raise.”
The New York Times reports that 1,500 McDonalds restaurants will raising employees' pay by $1 over local minimum wages. The company will also offer paid time off to employees who stay with the company more than a year. This move comes just a day after another round of major protests. The raise is not enough, but it shows that employers will listen when workers stand up. May many more workers stand up for their rights and to be paid a fair wage. There is still a very long way to go.
P.S. I should have noted yesterday that only McDonalds-owned franchises will raise their minimum wage. There are over 14,000 McDonalds restaurants that are owned by franchisees, who make their own decisions about salary. To their credit, the corporation has set a good example for them - as far as it goes.
The founder of McDonald's Ray Kroc showed deep wisdom when he said, "If you work just for money, you'll never make it, but if you love what you're doing and you always put the customer first, success will be yours."
Love what you do, and serve your customer. It's easy to say those words, but often hard to follow up on them. Money pushes us to occupations that we really don't want to do. Over the last 13 years, several of my clients have told me they don't want to be in sales or management, but: "That's where the money is." Some polls I've read say that a third of doctors would change careers if they could. The problem? Income.
What can you do if you're in such a position? Forget about the money and focus on your customer. If you are doing a service to someone else (which includes internal customers like students, co-workers, and even bosses), you will find some meaning and satisfaction in your work -- and you get to keep the money. However, if you don't get satisfaction from serving your customer, it is time to think about changing careers. As Ray Kroc said, money in itself is never enough. Success is not the ability to buy things. It is the ability to be excited in doing your work and taking pride in how it helps others.
Laura Clawson of the Daily Kos reports that workers in Virginia have sued a franchisee of McDonald’s, alleging sexual harassment and racially based firings. While the problem is with a franchise owner, the employees appealed to McDonald’s, which did nothing to help them.
I’m not a hater of McDonald’s. I do want the company to pay higher wages, but this case underscores the problem with franchise models. A major company’s brand can be smeared by a local owner who doesn’t follow policies. If McDonald’s wants to turn around its sales and reputation, it needs to spend less time on commercials about love and focus on treating its customers and employees better. If a franchise owner treats employees poorly, the corporation needs to step in and set thing right. We will love McDonald’s if it does the right thing.
According to Common Dreams, McDonald’s employees in California, Michigan, and New York are suing both corporate owned stores and franchisees for wage theft. The employees assert that their pay has been lost due to fraud that includes: doctoring time sheets, preventing employees from taking breaks, making them work off the clock and forcing them to pay for uniforms. The workers in these states are trying to come together in a class action suit that could cover over 30,000 employees. If large companies don’t want to pay their employees and don’t want to let them have union protection, the next step will be courts. What popular companies have to hope is that judgments in courts of law are not followed by a worse fate: conviction in the court of public opinion.
Aljazeera America reports that McDonald’s issued an SEC report claiming that its sales may suffer because of “campaigns by labor organizations and activists” to raise the minimum wage. This is the message the corporation sent to shareholders via the SEC report. Aljazeera quotes an industry spokesperson who says that a raise to the minimum wage would have little to no impact on McDonald’s stock price. It would have a big impact on workers’ lives. $15 per hour would have a bigger impact. We need a living wage, not a minimum wage.
Aljazeera America reports that McDonald’s has taken down a controversial website that offered “helpful” advice to low wage employees. In the recent past, the website has come under fire for advising employees to earn money selling things on E-Bay and how to tip a pool cleaner. The final straw hit close to home for the hamburger giant when the website, which is operated by a third party, told employees to stop eating fast food because it was unhealthy. Something tells me that the company responsible for that bit of wisdom no longer works for McDonald’s.
Rather than try to tell low wage workers how to live on less, companies like McDonald’s should be leaders in paying a living way. Would food cost more at the restaurant? It would. Would investors earn less on McDonald’s? Probably. Might franchise owners and corporate leaders need to take a pay cut? They would. Those are the costs. What about the benefits? Low wage workers would be pumping more into the economy. McDonald’s would be able to recruit better talent. Rather than give employees bad advice about how to live on less, it’s time to pay a living wage.
I was listening to Thom Hartmann’s talk show a couple of days ago and heard some frightening news. Since 2008, 800,000 Americans have fallen out of the middle class. Hartmann added to this woeful statistic recent discoveries about McDonald’s and Walmart. McDonald’s gives its workers advice on how to limit their diets and how to access social services. Similarly, Walmart was called out for holding a food drive for its low wage employees. In both cases, taxes of the middle class are a type of corporate welfare because they keep employees of Walmart and McDonald’s sheltered, fed, and medically secure. Hartmann looks at these trends and sees one outcome: the death of the middle class.
Fast food workers stuck in 7 cities across the U.S. today. Common Dreams reports that this could be the biggest strike of its kind ever to take place. Workers, many of whom are only making the minimum hourly wage of $7.25, are calling for a living wage of $15 per hour. At first, it sounds shocking that anyone would ask to have their wages doubled. However, it’s not that big a challenge.
Writing in Huffington Post, Caroline Fairchild reports that it would be fairly to double the wage of McDonald’s workers. The price of a Big Mac would go up by all of .68, which would double the wage of all workers in the company, including CEO Donald Thompson, who takes home $8.75 million per year (probably with a few extra million in stock options tossed in). It wouldn’t take much to help those most in need of a raise.
If we dug just a little deeper and paid a little more, an army of consumers would lift this economy without any government intervention. For this to happen, large companies like McDonalds and Walmart would need to do two things: First raise prices a little. Second, pass the wealth along to their employees. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.
Writing in Daily Kos, Laura Clawson reports on strategies and tactics being used by unions and often by non-union low wage workers. Workers at Walmart and other large, low-wage corporations are fighting back. They are attacking, as one labor leader put it, by coming at employers “from every angle.”
Traditional unions are often hindered by NLRB rules. Those rules don’t apply to workers who are kept out of unions. While they have no protection from the government, non-union workers can be more creative in their quest for workplace justice and fair pay. Hopefully, as Clawson suggests, the labor movement in the U.S. will be reborn from the bottom up.