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‘We’re not falling for it’: AOC tells McDonald’s that corporate minimum wage hike should apply to all workers

Fast-food workers on strike in 15 cities to push for $15 minimum wage

Alex Woodward
New York
Wednesday 19 May 2021 18:33 BST
McDonald’s workers in 15 cities are striking on 19 May to push for a companywide $15 minimum wage, an effort supported by labour organisers in the Fight For $15 campaign.
McDonald’s workers in 15 cities are striking on 19 May to push for a companywide $15 minimum wage, an effort supported by labour organisers in the Fight For $15 campaign. (Getty Images)
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Democratic US Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and US Senator Bernie Sanders addressed striking McDonald’s employees on Wednesday, as workers in 15 US cities demand a $15 minimum wage, union representation and paid medical leave and sufficient health protections during the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is one of the most difficult but essential industries in the United States,” the New York congresswoman said of food workers. “We are nothing without food workers ... Our economy and our lives, every day, interact with our food system, from agriculture workers to drive-through workers and everyone in between.”

The strike and revived nationwide Fight For $15 campaign on Wednesday follows McDonald’s announcement that hourly wages for employees at company-owned locations would rise to $11 to $17, and starting wages for shift managers will be raised to at least $15 to $20 per hour, based on restaurant location.

But employees in a majority of the roughly 14,000 McDonald’s restaurants that are independently owned – not corporate-owned – will not see the wage hikes. The raises will impact workers at roughly 650 restaurants. All company-owned restaurants will average $15 an hour wages by 2024, the company announced.

“If you want to look like you’re raising wages to $15 an hour, then you should actually raise wages to $15 an hour, for every McDonald’s worker in this country, minimum,” Rep Ocasio-Cortez said during a virtual event on Wednesday. “We’re not buying it. We’re not falling for it.”

She said that Congress is “not going to be tricked or duped” as Democratic lawmakers continue to push for raising the federal hourly minimum wage from its current $7.25 to at least $15.

“Their actions set the tone and set the standard for so many competitors as well,” she told workers. “You are fighting for food workers across the country to fight for a living wage and to get the union you deserve.”

Without labour organising, “we cannot push for it. It’s because you’re out there mobilising that we can point and say, ‘This is how bad people want it,’” she said.

“Because you’re doing the work we can point to, it allows us to keep the political pressure,” she said.

Senator Sanders – who pushed for an amendment in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan to gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025 – said “don’t think for one second” that lawmakers have stopped their efforts to raise wages.

“We’re going to win that fight because the American people strongly ... understand that a $7.25 min wage is a starvation wage,” he said in his remarks to workers.

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