Labor issues to pressure McDonald’s despite pay bump
NEW YORK (AP) -- A pay bump for workers at some McDonald's restaurants isn't likely to ease the pressures the chain is facing over labor issues.
McDonald's said Wednesday it would raise pay for workers at its company-owned U.S. restaurants, which represent only about 10 percent of more than 14,300 locations. The company also said it would offer paid time off for some workers.
Other companies, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., have announced pay hikes in an improving economy and at a time when worker issues are getting widespread attention. McDonald's, in particular, has been a primary target for ongoing demonstrations for pay of $15 an hour and a union.
Immediately following the announcement, labor organizers stressed how the move by McDonald's shows the need for people to turn out for the next day of protests on April 15, which is set to include college campuses around the country.
"Raising wages only a little for only a small fraction isn't change. It's a PR stunt," said Kwanaza Brooks, a McDonald's worker in North Carolina, on a conference call set up by organizers.
Kendall Fells, organizing director for the Fight for $15 campaign, said protests also were being planned at McDonald's stores on Thursday.
In addition to demonstrations that began in late 2012, the campaign spearheaded by the Service Employees International Union has been pressuring McDonald's on a number of legal fronts. This week, the National Labor Relations Board began a hearing that named McDonald's as a joint employer in complaints over alleged violations at franchised restaurants.
The case is a reflection of a primary goal of the campaign: to hold McDonald's Corp. accountable for labor practices at its franchised locations. McDonald's has said it doesn't have control over employment decisions at franchised restaurants, and emphasized that position Wednesday when it said franchisees "make their own decisions on pay and benefits."
In a phone interview, McDonald's USA President Mike Andres said few McDonald's workers have participated in the demonstrations and that the actions haven't hurt the company.
"They're not taking a toll," he said.
Instead, he said the decision to hike pay and provide paid-time off at company-owned restaurants was driven by the marketplace.
"It's a very competitive environment and a significant rationale for this plan is that we want to be the most competitive and attractive employer," Andres said.
He noted that many franchisees have already been providing higher pay to attract and retain workers.
Beginning on July 1, McDonald's says starting wages will be a dollar more than the local minimum wage where company-owned restaurants are located. By the end of 2016, it said the average hourly wage for McDonald's workers at those stores will be more than $10 an hour, up from $9 an hour.
McDonald's says workers at company-owned stores also will get paid time off. Employees who have worked for the company for at least a year and work an average of 20 hours a week will be eligible to accrue about 20 hours of paid time off a year. Workers who don't take the time off will be paid for the value of that time, McDonald's said.
The changes come as McDonald's business struggles in the U.S., with sales and customers counts at established locations falling two years in a row. In January, the company named Steve Easterbrook, its chief brand officer, as its new CEO. That change took effect last month.
Last month, McDonald's Chief Administrative Officer Pete Bensen hinted such an announcement regarding workers could be coming. Bensen said at the time that a big part of the turnaround effort in the U.S. would be what the company is doing "around the employment image and our employee-employer relationship."
Associated Press Writer Josh Boak contributed to this report from Washington, D.C.
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