Rockford McDonald’s workers take push for higher pay to Oak Brook
Days after walking off the job, Rockford McDonald’s workers will join colleagues from 36 cities to protest at Golden Arches’ Illinois headquarters
Online Staff Report
Rockford McDonald’s workers announced Monday, May 19, they will travel with hundreds of colleagues from three-dozen cities to the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Oak Brook, Ill., to escalate their call for $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation.
More than 2,000 fast-food workers, community supporters, clergy and elected officials will join them to protest at McDonald’s corporate headquarters, just days after strikes and protests rocked 230 cities around the world in what MSNBC called the “biggest fast-food strike ever.”
“Last week I went on strike for the first time because I can’t survive and support my family on the wages McDonald’s is paying me. We’re taking our demands for $15 and a union from Rockford to McDonald’s doorstep because the company refuses to listen to us,” said Giovanni LaBoy, a Rockford McDonald’s worker who makes $8.25 per hr. “With more than $5 billion in profits, we know McDonald’s can provide just wages.”
Last week, workers in Rockford went on strike at two restaurants in Rockford on West Riverside Boulevard in the morning, then held a strike line on Auburn Road at noon.
In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, McDonald’s admitted that the growing focus on inequality might force them to raise wages. In response to class-action lawsuits against McDonald’s that allege widespread and systematic wage theft, the company announced it was launching a comprehensive investigation.
Scrutiny on the company has intensified since the release of a report earlier this month by Demos showing that the fast-food industry has the largest disparity between worker and CEO pay. New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer said that excessive pay disparities “pose a risk to share owner value,” and that conversations around inequality should move into the boardrooms of profitable fast-food companies.
USA Today noted that the growing worker movement would be front-and-center at McDonald’s annual shareholder meeting, naming it “the issue that just won’t go away.” Business Insider wrote that the company was barring reporters from the annual meeting because of “the pressure the company is feeling from shareholders, franchisees, and especially workers — who are planning to protest at the meeting in Oak Brook, Illinois.”
“The problems of pay disparity in fast food extend beyond the industry to affect the rest of our economy,” said Catherine Ruetschlin, Demos policy analyst and author of the report “Fast Food Failure.” “Even the industry leader, McDonald’s, has acknowledged that rising inequality is a risk to their bottom line, as companies see the negative consequences of pay disparity appear as operational issues, legal challenges, and diminishing worker and customer satisfaction. Those consequences pose a real risk to shareholders, who have a material interest in addressing the practices that drive income inequality, undermine the long-term performance of the firm, and inhibit stability and growth in the economy overall.”
McDonald’s is facing growing criticism from both customers and franchisees. A recent Harris poll found that McDonald’s reputation among customers fell sharply, and surveys show that a majority of franchise owners are upset with the company, describing their relationship as “poor” and giving McDonald’s the lowest ratings it’s seen in 12 years.
In the past year, McDonald’s was widely ridiculed for its sample budget for workers, which required them to get a second job to make ends meet; its employee advice site that told workers to sing away stress, take small bites of food to avoid hunger and not eat fast food; an employee hotline that encouraged workers to apply for public assistance; and findings that the company costs U.S. taxpayers $1.2 billion annually in public assistance for its workers.
McDonald’s workers who will protest at the annual meeting, and who have now struck six times in the past 18 months, are challenging the company’s outdated notion that their workers are teenagers looking for part-time money. Protesters cite research that claims to show that a majority of fast-food workers are adults, many of whom are struggling to raise children on a median wage of $8.94 per hour.
A campaign that started in New York City in November 2012, with 200 fast-food workers walking off their jobs demanding $15 an hour, and the right to form a union without retaliation, has since spread to more than 150 cities in every region of the country, including the south—and now around the world. The growing fight for $15 has been credited with elevating the debate around inequality in the U.S. When Seattle’s mayor proposed a $15 minimum wage earlier this month, Businessweek said he was “adopting the rallying cry of fast-food workers.”
The spread of the worker movement overseas should cause further alarm. International fast-food restaurants are expected to expand at four times the rate of U.S. businesses, according to a recent Merrill Lynch report. And while U.S. sales slump, companies like McDonald’s are relying on growth overseas to boost their bottom lines more than ever.
For more on last week’s strike and protests, visit fastfoodglobal.org.