McDonalds’ $1 Pay Increase May Not Be a Pittance, But It Isn’t Enough, Say Workers’ Rights Advocates

Fast food giant McDonald’s recently announced, after some significant prodding from employees, that it will increase pay for all employees by $1 an hour. While the change represents a step in the right direction, it falls considerably short of the $15 an hour many workers’ rights advocates say that employees need to survive and thrive in today’s economy.

Just a few short years ago, at the height of the most recent economic downturn, unemployed workers counted themselves lucky to find even a minimum wage job at a fast food restaurant. With the Great Recession thankfully behind us now, however, these workers are beginning to feel secure enough once again to speak out against repressed wages as well as wage and hour violations and violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Organized demonstrations across the country have put pressure on big name employers to raise wages – and companies appear to be feeling the pressure. Within the last few months, McDonald’s, Walmart, TJMaxx, Marshalls, Homegoods, and Target have all agreed to increase wages to at least $9 an hour for all employees, and some of these companies have agreed to further increases to $10 an hour within the next year. These labor victories have followed on the heels of similar wage hike successes during Election Day 2014.

Many McDonald’s employees remain unhappy, though. They say that the $1 an hour pay increase isn’t sufficient to cover basic expenses, and the wage hike fails to address other urgent employee issues. A $1 an hour pay increase won’t get a worker in New York City off of Food Stamps or a worker in Los Angeles out of public housing.

Moreover, only those who work in restaurants that McDonald’s owns and operates will see a pay increase. The other 750,000 employees who work in franchised restaurants — 90 percent of the company’s labor force — will not see a pay increase. McDonald’s argues that it cannot control the practices at its franchise stores; however, the National Labor Relations Board disagrees. The NLRB found that “through its franchise relationship and its use of tools, resources and technology, [McDonald’s] engages in sufficient control over its franchisees’ operations, beyond protection of the brand, to make it a putative joint employer with its franchisees.”

It appears clear that McDonald’s workers have no plans to simply accept the $1 an hour raise they — or more accurately some of them — have been offered. Rallies scheduled for April 15th in over 200 cities nationwide suggest that the fight for better pay and fairer treatment for restaurant workers is just getting started.

If you need assistance with a harassment, discrimination or wage and hour case from a qualified and experienced New York employment law firm, call Joseph & Kirschenbaum, LLP today at 1 (212) 688-5640, or email us at

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