Kamala Harris Rages At McDonald’s Low Pay As Democrats Scramble For Union Support
Aspiring liberal presidential candidate Kamala Harris is turning her anti-capitalist and anti-corporate rage toward an iconic American company: McDonald’s. Her current manufactured “beef” with the fast food chain is how little it pays its workers, according to Bloomberg. Harris, who is part of a deep democratic presidential contender field, is desperately trying to
pander seek out the endorsement of labor unions as we inch closer to the crucial primaries.
“You can’t go around talking about the Golden Arches, as a symbol of the best of America, when you are not conducting yourself in the best way in terms of supporting the working people of America,” Harris said this weekend at a labor-focused candidate forum in Las Vegas.
At a gathering on Saturday organized by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Center for American Progress Action Fund, Harris was asked what she would do to get the company to sit down with workers to create union jobs. McDonald’s has been the most prominent target of the SEIU’s “Fight for $15” campaign, which seeks union organizing rights and higher pay for workers. The organization has helped secure $15 wage laws in a number of cities and states and is now trying to force some of the largest fast food companies in the country to allow union representation.
According to BLS data, 10.5% of wage and salaried workers nationwide were a part of unions in 2018. This number has slumped from 20.1% in 1983. In 2016, 18% of voters said they belonged to a union household, down from 21 percent in 2008, exit polls show.
McDonald’s had previously announced it would no longer take part in efforts to lobbying against raising the minimum wage.
Harris responded to a question about California’s new standard making it harder to treat “gig” workers as contractors instead of employees by saying that workers deserve “the right to negotiate” and that ride-sharing employees, for example, should “not have to be in a working situation where it’s about desperation.”
At the same time, she conveniently declined to directly answer questions on limiting corporate stock buybacks.
Mary Kay Henry, SEIU’s international president said: “The specific thing that we’re interested in hearing from them about is how are they are going to rewrite the rules to allow working people to join together and bargain with corporations on the scale that we need in order to create family-sustaining jobs in the part of the work force that is laboring in poverty jobs.”
The wide open and fragmented Democratic presidential field has been giving labor unions power to reassert their political influence as candidates are seeking their support. Union labor could potentially be especially critical in Nevada, which has the highest rate of union membership out of any of the four early primary and caucus states. Joe Biden’s entry into the presidential campaign brought the Democratic field to 20, and unions will try to use numbers to their advantage, seeking out favor for their issues from whatever politicians are willing to appease them the most.
Recently Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said: “The clout of organized labor is going to be stronger than it has been in the recent past.” Indeed, Trump’s victory in 2016 was partly the result of his ability to infiltrate union workers – more than most Republicans – in key states.
The question remains whether or not unions will be able to throw themselves behind one candidate early on. Early indications suggest that “won’t happen any time soon”. This time around, stung by feeling like they were “too quick” to back Hillary in 2016, unions have signaled they plan to move slowly. Clinton won the SEIU’s endorsement in November 2015, despite not having committed to support a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage. 51% of union member households voted for Clinton in 2016.
Meanwhile, it’s not like McDonald’s isn’t doing their part. For instance, just days ago we reported that the fast food chain was partnering with AARP to recruit broke senior citizens as workers. At a time when more seniors are being forced to return to the workforce, or simply can’t afford to retire, McDonald’s franchisees have hit upon a strategy to recruit more of them by partnering with AARP. The goal is to hire 250,000 elderly Americans this summer. Here’s more from MarketWatch:
“For the first time ever, five generations are now working together under the arches,” said Melissa Kersey, McDonald’s U.S. chief people officer.
McDonald’s wants to take advantage of “mature workers” from an “underutilized workforce,” according to a spokesperson. The company quotes Bureau of Labor Statistics data showing that adults ages 55 and over will make up nearly a quarter of the workforce by 2024.
Lucky for these “mature workers” the fast-food industry is on a hiring spree. Taco Bell, for example, is hosting 600 hiring parties through April 27, inviting applicants of all ages to attend a job fair for one of the 100,000 new U.S. jobs the company is creating through 2022.
Meanwhile, the share of American workers over the age of 65 currently in the labor force has risen to its highest level in more than half a century – and while not in the scope of this article, a global demographic crisis is emerging as the population of those over 65 is above those 5 year and younger for the first time ever…
And by 2024, adults over the age of 55 will make up more than a quarter of the workforce. Older Americans are largely responsible for the uptick in the labor force participation rate witnessed late last year.
Following a round of promised wage hikes, McDonald’s and other fast food restaurants need to find ways to hire more workers without further hikes in pay. McDonald’s CFO said during the company’s Q4 earnings call that “wage pressures” are a key contributing factor.
While Harris may find some traction on the issue with labor unions, alongside of other Democratic candidates, we’re sure that the one issue she suspiciously has no comment on – stock buybacks – will help continue to offset these “wage pressures” for McDonald’s shareholders.
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