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Detroit McDonald’s Employees Demand Pay Increase, Union Protection

— November 22, 2019

Detroit McDonald’s workers are demanding an hourly wage increase to $15 per hour.

A demonstration organization by union leaders was held outside of a Detroit McDonald’s this month at which employees were demanding an increase to $15 per hour wages “and an easier path to unionizing fast-food workers” on a larger scale.  The group, led by the Service Employees International Union, included approximately 300 people who marched the blocks surrounding the location chanting, “We work, we sweat, put $15 in our check” and “If we don’t get it, shut it down.”

Labor experts say organizing on a larger scale is difficult for many reasons, including the high employee turnover rate and franchised structure.  This makes it only possible to organize one location at a time.

“You are technically only able to organize and form a bargaining unit with the franchise – not with the corporation that oversees all of them as a whole,” said Marick Masters, a professor at Wayne State University’s Mike Ilitch School of Business.

Detroit McDonald's Employees Demand Pay Increase, Union Protection
Photo by Miguel Andrade on Unsplash

Mary Kay Henry, international president of the SEIU, said “the union wants to see sector bargaining for fast-food workers, which would allow one union or a coalition of unions to bargain for all workers in the fast-food industry.”

This isn’t the first time the well-known chain has tried to pay employees in underhanded ways.  Last year, several Pennsylvania McDonald’s locations decided to use fee-based debit cards for payment.  Luzerne County Judge Thomas F. Burke Jr. ruled in favor of the plaintiffs back in June 2015 and the state Superior Court upheld his decision.  The court found this type of compensation is not “lawful money” or a “check” as Pennsylvania law requires.

According to the filing, the J.P. Morgan Chase payroll cards given to employees carried fees for almost every type of transaction, including a $1.50 charge for withdrawing money from an ATM, $5 for over-the-counter cash withdrawals, $1 to check the card’s balance, 75 cents for online bill payment and $10 per month after the card is left inactive for more than three months.

Amid litigation, Chase voluntarily attempted to repay the employees any fees charged.  “Our law firm became bombarded with telephone calls. All of the class members were getting a form letter from Chase saying, we have decided to refund you all of the fees you have paid Chase,” the plaintiffs’ attorney Michael Cefalo said. “We were shocked.”

McDonald’s employees are also at high risk of experiencing crimes during their shifts, according to recent studies.  In June, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) filed a report stating employees at a McDonald’s on the south side of Chicago “have witnessed 31 violent incidents over six months during the past year, including physical and customers attacking workers over missing French fries.”

The complaint also cited numbers from the National Employment Law Project (NELP), a worker rights group that tallied 721 news accounts of violence at McDonald’s stores over the last three years, with guns involved 72% of the time.  The police department in St. Louis listed 67 violence incidents at McDonald’s in the city during the last three years.  In Chicago, more than 21 calls are made on an average day to emergency services from McDonald’s stores in the city.  One Chicago McDonald’s was the had 1,356 calls to 911 in the last three years.

All things considered the employees say they at least deserve to make a living wage.

George Haggen, 28, was among the employees who said current wages wouldn’t pay the bills, stating they “can’t survive on $9.45 an hour.”

Patricia Moseley, 46, a manager at the Detroit-based restaurant said she “has worked at the McDonald’s for seven years.”  Her wage is still less than $11 per hour.  “I feel like we deserve better, and we need a union because we need support,” she said.


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