When the initiative was first announced, McDonald's decision to raise its employees' wages to $1 above minimum wage (albeit only at corporate-owned stores, a minority of the company's total count) was hailed as a radical example of corporate accountability - a direct repudiation of the far-left notion that "quarterly capitalism" and employers accepting responsibility for their employees were mutually exclusive.
As any steely eyed realist might've expected, McDonald's widely lauded "wage hike" was little more than a publicity stunt. In the three years since McDonald's announced the wage hike in 2015, the firm has essentially frozen employee wages, often leaving them just a few cents above minimum wage, as Bloomberg has discovered.
But the company doesn't expect to experience any blowback from this decision: After all, McDonald's never said it was pegging employees' wages to $1 above minimum wage. The company, it appears, deliberately equivocated during its initial announced - and what's worse, nobody in the media has called the company out.
Until now, that is.
In Milpitas, California, north of San Jose, where the local minimum wage rose to $12 an hour on Jan. 1, several workers’ February paychecks show they received $12.35 or $12.45. In Los Angeles, where the minimum wage for large employers has been $12 since July, some checks show hourly pay of $12.69 or less.
Employees and members of the "Fight for $15" coalition - which had successfully pressured McDonald's to assent to the wage hike (or so we had thought) - are understandably angry at the company, possibly having planned to receive higher wages in the near future, and based some major financial decisions on that.
"They need to give us the dollar that they promised us," said one of those employees, Fanny Velazquez, who’s worked for the corporation for a decade. "I can’t pay my rent or my bills."
The Service Employees International Union - most likely the initial anonymous source who brought the story to Bloomberg - blasted the company in an on-the-record statement. It's also organizing workers to organize and exert whatever pressure they can.
The Fight For $15, a 6-year-old effort by the Service Employees International Union to organize fast food workers and secure more stringent wage laws, seized on the paychecks as evidence that the McDonald’s 2015 announcement was a “publicity stunt.”
"If McDonald’s wants to play semantics with its workers and continue to drive a race to the bottom instead of giving us real raises, it is going to continue losing workers to the growing number of employers who are leading the way to a better economy for all," said Betty Douglas, a McDonald’s worker in St. Louis, in a statement on behalf of the Fight for $15.
Fight For $15 criticized McDonald’s pay announcement from the start, because it didn’t apply to the majority of the chain’s stores, which are owned by franchisees, and didn’t meet the group’s signature demand of $15 hourly pay.
The group plans to launch a hotline Monday that workers can call to report their wages, and will hold rallies in three cities on Tuesday to press its case that workers need a union in order to hold the company accountable.
What's worse than McDonald's not following through with the wage hike, employees say, is that recent changes to McDonald's menu - primarily the "Experience the Future" suite of customizable menu options - have made the job harder.
Burger chains like McDonald’s are facing record-high turnover as workers depart for better jobs options in a tightening labor market. Last year, McDonald’s lagged behind peers like Wendy’s and Burger King in average drive-through times. Some employees complain that the chain’s "Experience of the Future," a suite of changes to menus, technology and food delivery, has meant performing more tasks without commensurate staffing expansions or pay increases.
"It’s going to get increasingly challenging to attract the talent you want into your business," Easterbrook said earlier this year, "and then you’ve got to work really hard through training and development to retain them."
Of course, that McDonald's did this shouldn't come as a surprise to any long-time Zero Hedge readers. The company has been rapidly adopting kiosks in its dining rooms that allow customers to order without interacting with a cashier. Analysts believe these machines will eventually lead to the disappearance of hundreds of thousands of fast-food service jobs.
As we've said before, McDonald's employees, while you're agitating for a $15 minimum wage, don't forget to thank your corporate overlords when they fire you and your comrades and replace you with this guy...