Over 1,500 McDonald’s employees and supporters protested at the company’s headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois, on May 20, a day before the annual shareholder meeting.
They are demanding a $15 minimum wage for fast-food workers.
Larger protests are planned for May 21, before the company’s annual shareholder meeting.
McDonald’s has been under pressure from workers to raise wages, just as investors have become increasingly unhappy with the company’s slumping sales.
In the same time, customers in the company’s biggest market – the US, which is responsible for 40% of its operating income – have been increasingly foregoing McDonald’s and other fast-food restaurants in favor of so-called “fast casual” chains like Shake Shack and Chipotle.
That has caused McDonald’s share price to sink – and let to grumbling amongst shareholders.
McDonald’s has banned media from attending the management meeting on May 21.
Earlier in May, CEO Steve Easterbrook – who took over the company in January – unveiled plans to turn around the company after it reported yet another quarter of disappointing results.
McDonald’s has been under pressure for over two years by the Fast for 15 campaign, a group of workers, backed by traditional labor unions. They have called on McDonald’s and others to raise the base amount it pays workers to a so-called “living wage” of $15 per hour.
The current US federal minimum wage is $7.25, but some states and cities – most notably, Los Angeles – have higher minimums.
Outside McDonald’s headquarters in Oak Brook, protesters carried banners and balloons, and chanted slogans.
However, McDonald’s has already said it plans to raise the wage it pays workers to above $9 per hour – and several other companies, including Wal-Mart and Target, have said they will increase their hourly minimums in the wake of the protests.
Part of the move, experts say, is that as the US economy recovers, large companies have to increase their base wages to keep workers.
But the companies also face mandatory wage increases in the several states and US cities that have voted to raise the local minimum wages since 2014.
On May 19, Los Angeles became the largest US city to boost wages, voting to increase the minimum wage in the city to $15 per hour by 2020. Experts say that amounts a $2.4 billion wage increase to over 500,000 workers in the city.
In his annual State of the Union address to Congress, President Barack Obama has declared an end to the financial crisis and pledged economic policies to benefit all Americans.
Barack Obama outlined his strategy for “middle-class economics in a speech devised to appeal to working families”.
“It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next 15 years,” he said.
However, the plans are unlikely to make it past a Republican-controlled Congress.
In a speech which he described as more focused on values than policies, Barack Obama declared America had turned a page after the worst recession since the Depression.
The president said he planned to build on this growth by providing working families with help in the form of sick and maternity leave and affordable childcare.
“Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?”
His speech included plans to build a competitive economy by improving America’s infrastructure and providing free access to community college.
“This plan is your chance to graduate ready for a new economy, without a load of debt,” Barack Obama said.
At the weekend, the White House pledged to close tax loopholes on large inheritances, raise capital gains tax on the richest earners from 23.8% to 28% and introduce new fees on US financial companies with assets about $50 billion.
Some senior members of the Republican party dismissed this as “class warfare”.
Other plans outlined by the president include:
improve statutory sick leave and minimum wage
help nine million students to pay for community college
stronger cybersecurity and consumer protection
continue with plans to shut the prison in Guantanamo
equal pay for men and women
On foreign policy, Barack Obama said America reserved the “right to act unilaterally” in hunting down terrorists and called on Congress to pass a resolution to authorize the use of force against Islamic State.
The president reiterated his belief that the US could negotiate an agreement to prevent Iran gaining nuclear weapons and said he would veto any new sanctions bill which threatens this.
He said his decision to end America’s long-standing policy on Cuba and try something new had the potential to “end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere”.
Alan Gross, who was recently released after spending five years in a Cuban prison, was among Michelle Obama’s guests for the speech.
In ending his address, Barack Obama said he was optimistic he could work with Congress, despite months of political gridlock.
“I have no more campaigns to run. My only agenda for the next two years is the same as the one I’ve had since the day I swore an oath on the steps of this Capitol – to do what I believe is best for America,” he said.
But consensus with the Republican party on many of the issues he outlined is unlikely.
In their official rebuttal, Republican senator and rising star, Joni Ernst, said Americans have not seen solutions from Barack Obama and criticized his health and immigration policies.
“Americans have been hurting, but when we demanded solutions, too often Washington responded with the same stale mindset that led to failed policies like ObamaCare,” she said.
The senator called on Barack Obama to work with Republicans on issues where they might have common ground – including a trade deal and tax code reform.
Los Angeles has raised the minimum wage at large hotels to $15.37 per hour.
In a 12-3 vote, the LA city council approved the rise for hotels with more than 300 rooms on July 1, 2015, and for hotels with more than 150 rooms a year later.
The new wage floor would be one of the highest in the US.
It was opposed by the hotel industry, which said it would force worker redundancies. Mayor Eric Garcetti has said he will sign the bill into law.
Under the measure passed on Wednesday, the minimum could be temporarily waived for hotels facing bankruptcy or imminent closure. Hotels with unionized workers could also be exempt if minimum wages are defined in collective bargaining agreements.
It is unclear how many workers the rise will affect. An earlier study, based on a threshold of 125 rooms, estimated the number at 13,000 employees, the Los Angeles Daily News reported.
Because the vote was not unanimous, the council will take a second vote next week in order to pass it formally.
The Los Angeles city council has voted to raise the minimum wage at large hotels to $15.37 per hour (photo Reuters)
Wednesday’s vote comes after Seattle’s city council voted to raise its hourly minimum to $15 over several years. San Francisco will vote on a similar rise in November.
Eric Garcetti has pledged to push for a city-wide rise to $13.25 by 2017.
California’s current minimum hourly wage is $9, rising to $10 by January 1, 2016.
The vote was the result of a sustained campaign by local community councils, labor unions, and the American Civil Liberties Union, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Councilman Bernard Parks, one of the three votes against, argued wage rises should not be “just for a specific union or industry or business”, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Hospitality industry figures warned the rise could lead to hotels making workers redundant.
And some hotel industry executives suggested employees who receive tips should be exempt.
“Please give it some more time to let us discuss this,” Mike Czarcinski, chairman of the Hotel Association of Los Angeles, told council members ahead of the vote, saying his organization thinks $13.25 per hour “is the right number”.
However, supporters said larger hotels could afford to pay higher wages in an industry where many workers struggle to escape poverty.
“It’s time to lift the floor in Los Angeles, it’s time to bring economic justice in Los Angeles, it’s time to raise LA,” Councilman Mike Bonin said.
Germany has approved its first minimum wage, in a vote in the Bundestag on Thursday.
The wage will be set at 8.50 euros ($11.50) per hour, which is higher than the equivalent in the US and UK.
Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats approved the new policy as part of a power-sharing deal with the Social Democratic Party (SPD).
Germany has previously relied on trade unions and business groups to fix minimum pay instead.
Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats approved the national minimum wage as part of a power-sharing deal with the Social Democratic Party
At the moment, Germany is one of seven in the 28-nation EU without a minimum wage level.
The minimum wage has been the subject of much controversy in Germany, with business leaders warning that it would result in fewer jobs, or force companies to move production facilities to other countries, where labor is cheaper.
Lobbyists have also claimed that the policy would make Germany less competitive.
However, others have been angered by concessionary measures, including a two-year grace period for some employers to phase in the policy.
Additionally, the wage does not cover minors, interns, trainees or long-term unemployed people for their first six months at work.
For the rest of Germany’s employers, the regulations will come into effect on January 1, 2015. The wage will be reviewed annually from January 1, 2018.
Regardless of the outcome of Thursday’s vote, the policy will still need to be passed by Germany’s upper house, the Bundesrat.
Other European countries have been adjusting their minimum wage policies.
In May, Swiss voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to introduce what would have been the highest minimum wage in the world, in a referendum.
Under the plan, employers would have had to pay workers a minimum 22 Swiss francs (about $25 or 18 euros) an hour.
President Barack Obama is taking his campaign for a minimum wage rise to the streets, visiting local businesses after his State of the Union address.
Barack Obama travelled to a Maryland Costco store and a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, steel plant.
The visits promote a proposed national minimum wage increase to $10.10 per hour over the current $7.25.
The president said on Tuesday he would issue an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal employees.
“If you work hard, you should be able to pay your rent, buy your groceries, look after your kids,” Barack Obama told Costco employees on Wednesday.
Costco workers are said to earn at least $11.50 an hour, far above the current national minimum wage Barack Obama has asked a gridlocked Congress to increase.
President Barack Obama is taking his campaign for a minimum wage rise to the streets, visiting local businesses after his State of the Union address
On Thursday, Barack Obama plans to visit a General Electric facility in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and speak at a high school in Nashville, Tennessee, to promote measures outlined in his national address.
“It’s time to give America a raise,” Barack Obama told members of Congress on Tuesday night, pledging to circumvent their partisan politics through the use of executive orders.
“Wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do,” he said, noting that inequality has deepened and upward mobility stalled.
Among his planned proposals is a new savings programme aimed at employees without retirement plans.
The pilot program – involving “starter” accounts which let employees save and withdraw funds without paying additional taxes – will reportedly be available by the end of the year.
Barack Obama was scheduled to visit a US Steel Corporation plant on Wednesday along with Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew to tout the action.
With just three years left in office, Barack Obama faces falling approval ratings and determined opposition from the Republican Party, which controls the House of Representatives and has the numbers in the Senate to block his agenda.
House Speaker John Boehner has warned that increasing the federal minimum wage would cost jobs.
Following Barack Obama’s nationwide speech, Republican Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers called on him to take action “by empowering people, not making their lives harder with unprecedented spending, higher taxes and fewer jobs”.
President Barack Obama will unveil a minimum-wage raise as he delivers his annual State of the Union address later.
The president is expected to bypass a fractured Congress to act on income inequality.
The White House said Barack Obama would unveil an executive order to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for new federal contract workers.
The president is also expected to announce other executive orders, which do not require congressional approval.
He is facing some of the lowest approval ratings of his presidency.
Barack Obama has called for a “year of action”, though Congress will limit his ability to get much done.
He will speak in the House of Representatives at 21:00 local time on Tuesday.
President Barack Obama will unveil a minimum-wage raise as he delivers his annual State of the Union address
Just over a year after his re-election, Barack Obama must contend with determined opposition from the Republican Party, which controls the House of Representatives and has the numbers in the Senate to block his agenda.
Time is running short before Washington DC turns its attention to the 2016 race to elect his successor, threatening to render him irrelevant even with three years remaining in office.
In the face of a divided Congress, Barack Obama has pledged to use executive action to bypass Congress, and the White House says he will flesh out some of his plans in the State of the Union speech.
Barack Obama is also expected to address long-term joblessness, expansion of early childhood education and infrastructure spending.
He will reiterate his call for a broad rise in the national minimum wage, currently $7.25 per hour, say White House officials.
The president’s executive order raising the hourly rate of federal contract workers prompted a swift response from Republicans.
Barack Obama is also tipped to urge the Republican House of Representatives to support a broad overhaul of the US immigration system.
Last year, the Senate passed a bill that included a path to citizenship for some of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US.
Fast-food restaurant workers are staging a 24-hour strike in protest against low wages.
Walkouts were reported in New York, Chicago, Washington DC, and also Detroit, Michigan; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Organizers hoped workers in as many as 100 cities will participate in what is the latest in a series of such actions.
Unions want a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage. The current one, set in 2009, is $7.25 per hour.
President Barack Obama, who has backed a Senate measure to increase the minimum to $10.10, specifically mentioned fast-food workers “who work their tails off and are still living at or barely above poverty”, in an economic policy speech on Wednesday.
Barack Obama’s Democratic allies, who control the upper chamber of Congress, have said a vote on the matter could be held this month.
But even if it passes the Senate, it is not clear if it would be approved by the Republican-led House of Representatives.
Nearly 100 protestors gathered around a Wendy’s restaurant in Brooklyn, New York, at midday, carrying signs saying “stick together for $15/hr”.
Fast-food restaurant workers are staging a 24-hour strike in protest against low wages
In Detroit, about 50 demonstrators turned out for an early morning rally in front of a McDonald’s, including a handful of employees who walked off the job. However, the restaurant stayed open.
Another 40 demonstrators rallied at a Burger King in Atlanta.
The American fast-food industry has come under increasing scrutiny because part-time jobs, including retail and food positions, have made up most of the job growth since the recession.
It is not yet clear how many fast-food restaurants will be affected by Thursday’s industrial action.
The workers’ last nationwide strike, in August, was patchy, with some restaurants appearing to function normally while others were unable to do business.
The National Restaurant Association, an industry lobbying group, called the strikes a “campaign engineered by national labor groups”, claiming the vast majority of participants were in fact union protestors.
The association said firms already face “great uncertainty”.
“Calls to double the minimum wage only intensify the challenges faced by job creators.”
This week, a measure in the tiny airport town of SeaTac, Washington state, to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour passed by 77 votes.
As a result, some 6,300 workers at SeaTac’s airport, which primarily serves the region’s largest city, Seattle, will be paid the highest minimum wage in the nation.
President Barack Obama has said the US must fix what he described as profound income inequality and a lack of social mobility.
He called for a rise in the minimum wage and for stronger collective bargaining laws, among other measures.
The president also said his embattled healthcare overhaul would ease one part of American families’ financial struggle.
Barack Obama’s approval ratings have plummeted in recent weeks amid that law’s botched rollout.
While acknowledging the political difficulty of passing any such government action with a divided and acrimonious Congress, Barack Obama’s speech in Washington DC gave a broad overview of economic themes for the rest of his term, analysts say.
The president said the country had accepted higher levels of economic inequality than other developed nations because Americans “were convinced that America is a place where even if you’re born with nothing, with a little hard work you can improve your own situation over time”.
But Barack Obama, a Democrat, said rising income inequality had been accompanied in recent decades by diminishing opportunities for social mobility. He faulted tax cuts for wealthy Americans, declining investment in schools and infrastructure, and laws that have weakened labor unions, compounded by broad structural changes in the global economy.
Barack Obama has said the US must fix what he described as profound income inequality and a lack of social mobility
“The combined trends of increased inequality and decreasing mobility pose a fundamental threat to the American Dream, our way of life, and what we stand for around the globe,” Barack Obama said.
“The idea that so many children are born into poverty in the wealthiest nation on Earth is heartbreaking enough. The idea that a child may never be able to escape that poverty because she lacks a decent education or healthcare, or a community that views her future as their own, that should offend all of us and it should compel us to action.”
The US president argued rising inequality was eroding trust in institutions and reducing civic and community involvement. And he said the “growing gap” was as much about class as it was about race.
To remedy the growing income inequality, Barack Obama called for a rise in the national minimum wage, currently $7.25 – as low as it was during the administration of President Harry Truman in the 1950s in terms of spending power, he said.
Several states and cities have raised their own minimum wages, most recently New Jersey and Washington DC.
A proposal is currently being floated in the Senate to increase the national minimum wage to $10.10 in three steps and tie further increases to changes in the cost of living, but its path even through the Democratic-controlled Senate is unclear.
Barack Obama also suggested targeted programmes for cities and regions hardest hit by the 2008 recession and other sea changes in the US economy, universal preschool education for young children, a shoring-up of the US pension and social safety net schemes, and laws to make it easier for workers to organize into labor unions.
He pressed Congress to extend unemployment benefits to 1.3 million people who have been unemployed long-term, set to expire toward the end of December.
Additional weeks of benefits have been approved since 2009, but on Tuesday, a senior Republican congressman, Representative Tom Cole, said his party opposed an extension.