US federal law sets the national minimum wage at $7.25/hour, a number that hasn't budged for a decade and is in part responsible for the nation's wage stagnation, which has seen working peoples' earnings falling in real terms, while productivity grew, the stock market surged, and the richest grew much, much richer.
The fundamental injustice of this system has buoyed movements like Fight for 15, which advocated a $15/hour minimum wage. But Fight for 15 has been thwarted by massive corporate lobbying by the likes of the US Chamber of Commerce and McDonald's restaurants, who have thrown everything they have at suppressing wage increases at both the national and state level (though some states have managed to overcome their resistance).
McDonald's has now announced that it will drop its lobbying efforts against minimum wage hikes, after years of strikes and action that connected the struggle for a living wage to the #MeToo movement and widespread patterns of sexual harassment and assault in McDonald's restaurants. The move represents a break with the powerful National Restaurants Association lobby group, which fought against 30 state-level minimum wage bills.
The Chamber of Commerce has also said that it will not block minimum wage increases on principal any longer, though it has said that it would lobby against a national $15/hour minimum wage.
McDonald's is facing potentially costly action from a National Labor Relations Board suit that seeks to hold the company responsible for some of the labor abuses committed by its franchisees.
Progressives in the new Democratic Congress are seeking to introduce legislation to increase the national minimum wage, but the Democratic caucus is split, with "red state" Democrats fighting against the measure. McDonald's announcement may help the party find unity on the issue.
Unions backing the Fight for $15 movement were jubilant at McDonald's reversal. "By sticking together and taking action on the job, courageous workers in the Fight for $15 and a Union have forced McDonald's — the second-biggest employer in the world — to drop its relentless opposition to higher pay," SEIU President Mary Kay Henry said in a written statement.
But Henry said the union isn't done applying pressure to the company. "Now McDonald's needs to use its profits and power to give thousands of cooks and cashiers across the country a real shot at the middle class by raising pay to $15 an hour and respecting its workers' right to a union," she said.
Exclusive: McDonald's halts lobbying against minimum wage hikes [Rebecca Rainey/Politico]
(via Naked Capitalism)
(Image: Tony Fischer, CC-BY)