Detroit McDonald's workers walk out to push for $15 an hour

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Detroit — Patricia Moseley has worked for McDonald’s for more than 30 years. As a shift manager, she makes $12.20 an hour, which she said is not enough for the work she does.

“We sweat and we put up with a lot of customers' attitudes,” she said. “I feel that we need $15 an hour. We have people walking off the job because they’re not making no money and they complain a lot. … We need to make a change.”

McDonald's workers and supporters protest at the restaurant's location on Van Dyke Ave. and E. Outer Dr. in Detroit and advocates for the $15 an hour minimum wage (Fight for $15) engage in a work stoppage on Wednesday at noon, May 19, 2021, a day before McDonald's holds in annual shareholder meeting.

Moseley, 48, took a stand Wednesday as she walked out of her job at the McDonald’s on Van Dyke at Outer Drive to join a rally demanding a minimum $15 wage and the right to unionize. About 150 demonstrators, most wearing bright red "Fight for $15" shirts, cheered her as she exited the restaurant. 

"I feel good," she said of the support she received.

The local strike took place ahead of the company’s annual shareholder meeting and was part of a 15-city walkout. It is part of an ongoing global "Fight for $15" movement for fast-food workers.

The rally comes as fast-food companies struggle to find workers amid a labor shortage some say exists in part due to the extension of supplemental unemployment benefits.

McDonald’s says it plans to raise hourly wages for more than 36,500 employees at McDonald’s-owned restaurants by an average of 10% over the next several months and eventually reach an average of $15 by 2024. Starting wages for crew will be $11-$17 an hour and the starting range for shift managers will be $15-$20 an hour, based on restaurant location. It’s part of a benefits package for eligible employees in McDonald’s-owned restaurants and includes paid time off, employee assistance and a 401(k) plan.

Retired auto industry worker Mike Shane, left, of Detroit, holds a $15 sign as McDonald's workers and supporters protest at the restaurant's location on Van Dyke Ave. and E. Outer Dr. in Detroit and advocates for the $15 an hour minimum wage (Fight for $15) engage in a work stoppage on Wednesday at noon, May 19, 2021, a day before McDonald's holds in annual shareholder meeting.

As for franchisees, Mark Salebra, chair of the U.S. National Franchisee Leadership Alliance, said in a statement that owner/operators are leading an effort to implement a platform called Employee Value Proposition, which independent owner/operators can implement to stay competitive as employers in their local markets.

“In order to drive growth in a challenging hiring market and best serve our customers, it is imperative that we attract and retain exceptional talent in our restaurants, and we proudly offer a variety of unique employee programs and benefits locally as franchisees,” he said.

It is unclear if the platform will result in pay increases for employees at franchise locations.

Willie Walker, pastor of Love Joy Church of God in Christ, has long been a supporter in the Fight for $15 movement.

“We have gained a lot of ground,” he said. “We’re starting to see presidents and senators talk about raising the minimum wage. You can hear it in their speeches. Even our president we just nominated, Biden, he talks about it a lot to raise it to $15. When we first started, no one was talking about it. This thing has grown legs and it’s moving and it’s moving quick.”

Walker said the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need and importance of fast-food workers, many who continued to work despite public health concerns.

Detroit's Love Joy Church senior pastor Willie Walker, left, of Yspilanti, prays for workers at the end of the $15 per hour minimum wage protest at the McDonald's location on Van Dyke Ave. and E. Outer Dr. in Detroit, Wednesday afternoon, May 19, 2021, as supporter A.J. Thomas, right, of Detroit, holds the megaphone.

“Those that chose to work and not take the unemployment got overworked and didn’t get paid for it,” he said. “It’s time for someone to speak up and help those workers.”

Kenneyatta Cochran, 38, of Detroit said she’s worked as a crew member at McDonald’s for more than three years. She gave birth to her daughter at the start of the pandemic, returned to work and continued to work amid the pandemic making $10 an hour.

“We deserve and need $15 and a union,” she said. “Fifteen dollars and a union would mean we could afford to take a sick day and not worry about risking our jobs.”

cwilliams@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN