the chain gang

Workers Say McDonald’s Is Breaking Its Minimum-Wage Pledge

The 2015 raise was “not a policy thereafter,” a rep says. Photo: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Back in 2015, McDonald’s announced that it was instituting a wage floor — whatever the local minimum wage was, workers at company-owned U.S. locations would earn at least $1 more. This was surprising news, as McDonald’s doesn’t really have a history of doing raises. It turned out that the hourly rate hike only affected a small percentage of employees (company-owned locations are only about 10 percent of stores), but the pledge was nonetheless mildly heartening to workers and labor activists, who’d already been protesting the chain’s low pay for more than a year.

So, how’s that promise looking today? Bloomberg checked in three years after the announcement and discovered that the hourly rates at those company-run stores are now “substantially less than a dollar above the current local minimum.” In 2015, newly installed CEO Steve Easterbrook — revving hard in chain-turnaround modetold The Wall Street Journal that the reason for the raise was because “a motivated workforce leads to better customer service,” and so they therefore “believe this initial step not only benefits our employees, it will improve the McDonald’s restaurant experience.” But if the pay stubs Bloomberg saw from McDonald’s locations in eight cities are any sign, there seems to have been a change of heart.

At Chicago locations in 2015, the bottom wage was raised to $11 an hour, a buck more than the city’s $10 minimum. Since then, Chicago’s wage citywide has climbed to $11 an hour, but paychecks show that some McDonald’s workers are making $11.40. At a Bay Area store, the local minimum wage jumped to $12 on January 1, yet Bloomberg says workers are making as little as $12.35. And down in L.A., where McDonald’s workers have been lawfully entitled to $12 an hour since last July, some of them are getting $12.69 or less.

McDonald’s apparently doesn’t see much of a problem with this development. In a statement, spokesperson Terri Hickey says the 2015 wage increase “was applicable to the local wages on July 1, 2015,” but “was not a policy thereafter.” So sorta one and done, you could say.

Fight for $15 — the group that’s been protesting McDonald’s wages for years (and got these pay stubs into Bloomberg’s hands) — says it’s clear that the 2015 announcement was a “publicity stunt.” In a statement of its own, the group says McDonald’s can “play semantics” if it wants, but the chain will only “continue losing workers to the growing number of employers who are leading the way to a better economy for all.” The group also says it’s launching a hotline later today where workers can report their pay rates, and plans to hit the chain tomorrow with a new round of rallies in three cities.

Workers Say McDonald’s Is Breaking Its Minimum-Wage Pledge