Having waged a public and ultimately successful campaign for Amazon to raise its minimum wage to US$15 an hour, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has turned his attention to another giant corporation, McDonald's.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on October 5, 2018

“If Amazon and Disney can pay $15 an hour, so can McDonald’s, which made $5.1 billion in profits last year,” Sanders wrote on Twitter.

In a second tweet, he wrote: “My message to McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook: No one in America, especially those working for a profitable corporation like McDonald’s, should be living in poverty.” He attached an image of the letter he sent to Easterbrook.

Sanders questions why McDonalds workers need welfare assistance to survive

In the letter, Sanders notes that Whole Foods Company (an Amazon subsidiary) and the Walt Disney Company recently raised their minimum wages to US$15 an hour.

He goes on to say US taxpayers are subsidising McDonald’s, a company which made US$5.1 billion in profits last year, to the tune of US$1.2 billion through social assistance programs. He also calls on the fast food giant to allow its workers to unionise and says McDonald’s could be an industry leader by making these changes.

Sanders had waged a similar campaign for Amazon to raise its minimum wages. He introduced the Bezos Act, legislation that proposed to tax corporations for every dollar their low-wage workers receive in government healthcare benefits or food stamps.

The company did eventually raise minimum wages for its 250,000 workers but it has been criticised for eliminating monthly bonuses and stock option awards as it did so, potentially eroding the benefits of the wage increase for some of its workers.

In an interview with Bloomberg News, Sanders also named Target, Walmart and the airline industry as others who need to lift their game on minimum wage.

McDonald’s responds to Bernie Sanders’ comments

McDonald’s responded to the senator’s demands in a statement. “Our commitment to the communities we serve includes providing opportunities for restaurant employees to succeed at McDonald’s and beyond with world-class training and education programs to help them build the skills needed for today’s workforce,” it reads.

The statement goes on to say McDonald’s has committed to provide its staff with some US$150 million of tuition assistance over the next five years.

McDonald’s shares dipped in the wake of Sanders’ comments.

The company has been targeted by the Fight For $15 movement which has demanded fast-food chains pay this hourly rate to workers. McDonald’s had previously committed to raising its pay to at least US$1 above the minimum hourly wage across its US stores.

Header image: Phil Roeder