The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

McDonald's Fails to Honor Promise to Raise Workers' Wages

Paystubs reveal fast-food giant’s ballyhooed pledge to boost pay $1 above local minimum wage a sham.


McDonald's is breaking its highly-touted April 2015 pledge to pay the 90,000 workers at its corporate stores $1 an hour above the local minimum wage, the Fight for $15 announced Monday.

Worker paystubs in three major metropolitan areas where the company has large numbers of corporate stores show cooks and cashiers are being paid less than $1 above the local minimums. McDonald's made the announcement of the increase three years ago in the face of massive worker protests calling for higher pay and union rights. At the time, CEO Steve Easterbrook said the increase was in response to employee surveys and was about delivering "better customer service." The move was widely panned as inadequate because the increases only applied to a small fraction of McDonald's employees, but nevertheless, the company has failed to make good on its promise.

"McDonald's publicity stunt has turned out to be a sham," said Kayla Kuper, who is paid $11.40/hour at a McDonald's corporate store in Chicago, when she should be paid a minimum of $12/hour. "We can't take this company at its word. That's why we need union rights - so that we can hold McDonald's accountable and win the decent wage and basic benefits we need to support our families."

Workers employed at McDonald's corporate stores in at least three regions across the country - Greater Chicago, Los Angeles County and the Bay Area - have not received the announced higher wage.

  • Greater Chicago: The minimum wage in the city is $11.00 and $10.00 in surrounding Cook County. In the city of Chicago, workers employed at McDonald's corporate-owned stores are earning as little as $11.25/hr and in Cook County workers are earning as little as $10.35/hr.
  • Greater Los Angeles: In the City of Los Angeles and portions of Los Angeles County the minimum wage is $12.00. In L.A., workers at McDonald's corporate-owned stores are earning as little as $12.39/hr.
  • Bay Area: There are numerous minimum wages in the Bay Area that are higher than California's state minimum wage of $11.00, including Milpitas ($12.00) and San Jose ($14.50). Workers in McDonald's corporate-owned stores are earning as little as $12.35/hr in Milpitas and $14.10 in San Jose.

The Fight for $15 announced Monday it has set up a toll-free hotline for McDonald's workers who believe they are being shortchanged by the company. The number is (650) 503-4448. And workers said they would hold protests Tuesday at McDonald's stores in the three metropolitan areas where they are being paid less than promised.

The news that McDonald's lied about its own pay hikes comes as the company is spending tens of millions of dollars marketing itself as "America's best first job."

"Instead of spending tens of millions plugging itself as 'America's best first job,' maybe McDonald's should use that money to keep its promise to me and the other workers it's been stiffing," said Fanny Velazquez, who is paid $12.62/hour at a McDonald's corporate store in Los Angeles, where the minimum wage is $12/hr.

A year after the April 2015 announcement of the raises, Easterbrook touted the purported increases at McDonald's shareholders meeting, noting that the raises and improvements to benefits resulted in "lower turnover and higher customer satisfaction scores."

But Bloomberg reported in March that employee turnover at McDonald's is becoming an increasingly serious problem, and McDonald's wages have failed to remain competitive compared to many of the key players in fast food, retail and other industries that compete with the fast-food giant for employees. In March 2016, Costco raised its minimum wage for existing and new entry-level workers to $13/hr. In October 2017, Target raised its hourly minimum wage to $11/hr and committed to increasing its minimum wage to $15/hr by the end of 2020. And Walmart announced in January 2018 that it would raise its minimum wage to $11.00 in February and would provide employees who have been with the company for 20 years with a one-time bonus of up to $1,000.

The revelation that McDonald's is lying about wage increases in corporate stores is just the latest example of how the world's second-largest private employer mistreats employees. In 2014, workers in three states filed class-action lawsuits against the company, alleging widespread wage theft. That same year, the federal government charged McDonalds with illegally harassing, intimidating and even firing workers who went on strike calling for $15 and union rights. In 2015, workers filed more than two-dozen complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, alleging unsafe working conditions at McDonald's restaurants. And in 2016, fast-food workers filed sexual harassment complaints with the EEOC, alleging widespread sexual harassment on the job. Low wages at McDonald's cost taxpayers $1.2 billion a year, according to the National Employment Law Project.

Fast food workers are coming together all over the country to fight for $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation. We work for corporations that are making tremendous profits, but do not pay employees enough to support our families and to cover basic needs like food, health care, rent and transportation.