Nearly a dozen Charlotte-area McDonald’s workers took to a sidewalk Thursday afternoon, wielding signs and sounding off chants in solidarity with fast-food employees nationwide who lobbied for $15-an-hour wages.
The protests were in response to McDonald’s announcement that it will raise pay for workers at company-owned restaurants to $1 above the minimum wage. The fast-food operator predicts the average wage will be about $10 an hour by the end of 2016. Full- and part-time employees at company-owned restaurants with at least one year of service will start accruing personal paid time off starting July 1.
The increase, though, will not affect workers at McDonald’s restaurants which are owned by franchisees – the bulk of the company – who make their own decisions about employee pay and benefits.
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Other companies, including Wal-Mart Stores, Target and T.J. Maxx, also have recently raised their wages.
In Charlotte, workers and community supporters gathered in front of a Beatties Ford Road McDonald’s and held signs about their demands for raises, benefits and a union formed without retaliation. One sign labeled the “McDonald’s Zero Dollar Menu” listed the perks denied to employees.
Their rallying cry included a mix of chants such as: “Hey, hey, ho, ho, $7.25’s got to go” and “Hold your burgers, hold your fries. Make our wages supersize.”
From a megaphone, Kwanza Brooks, 38, called the chain’s pay increase that covers corporate employees only an “insult” and “smack in our face.”
“They’re keeping us sheltered … they’re keeping us in a little circle where we can’t prosper, can’t grow,” said Brooks, who works at a McDonald’s in Pineville and alleged the restaurant requires employees to meet high-pressure drive-thru quotas. Raising pay “wouldn’t hurt (McDonald’s). We make them so much money.”
Shanti Faulkner, 25, said the pay isn’t enough to help pay her $700 rent. “I can’t feed myself. … I can’t take care of myself,” she said.
And Jaimey Walker, 30, who works at a Burger King in Greensboro, said fast-food wages are so low that last week he had to choose between buying his 2-year-old son medication and diapers, or feeding himself. He chose his son.
“To keep me happy, I have to keep him happy,” he said.
The Fight for 15 campaign coordinated the rally and plans to organize its largest yet on April 15. Last month, Fight for 15 filed 28 Occupational Safety and Health Administration complaints on behalf of McDonald’s workers in 18 cities who alleged unsafe work conditions and injuries while working for the chain. Charlotte workers were included in that complaint, organizers said.