This post is part of an ongoing of series on the fast food organizing movement. You can read all our Fast Food News here.
After Wal-Mart’s announcement that it will increase their starting hourly wage to $9 in April, some believe that McDonald’s will be unable to resist wage increases. According to Reuters, as the economy continues to improve and the bar for pay continues to rise, McDonald’s and other fast food restaurants will feel the pressure to increase their own wages in order to attract high quality employees. However, this comes at a time when McDonald’s has seen continued sales slumps, making it difficult for the company to increase prices to cover increased labor costs. But there is limited flexibility for McDonald’s under these new circumstances, as employers will be forced to increase pay for experienced workers in order to retain these employees.
CBS News reports an interesting wrinkle to the Wal-Mart wage increase as it relates to McDonald’s specifically. McDonald’s still has several outposts within Wal-Mart stores, which could lead to increased pressure for McDonald’s to retain those workers. According to Judi Conti of the National Employment Law Project, it is not unfathomable to think of those McDonald’s employees attempting to jump-ship to the Wal-Mart they work within as a way to get a higher wage after this increase.
However, it remains an open question as to whether any increase in wages will have an impact on the proliferation of the practice of “clopening.” Steven Greenhouse writes on this phenomenon in the New York Times, writing that employers, including several fast food restaurants, have continued to shrink the time between employee shifts, and have relied on smaller staffs as a way to offset increased costs of business, thus leading to the same workers closing and opening the business each day. Often, workers are giving as little as two days notice for their weekly schedule, and no federal or state labor law has stepped in to regulate the amount of time required between shifts. This is in stark contrast to the European Union, where there is a minimum a minimum daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours per 24-hour period. According to the Times, these “clopening” schedules have become commonplace in the fast food industry, as restaurants face high employee turnover and are left with few workers with the authority and experience to oversee the opening and closing process. And while workers have advocated for ending the practice of “clopening,” in these low wage fields they often cannot turn them down, since the additional hours are necessary for their overall economic wellbeing.
According to Politico, California Assembly member David Chiu has introduced a bill that would limit last-minute scheduling practices that are rampant throughout the fast food industry. The bill would require all retail and food companies that employ more than 500 people to notify employees of their work schedules at least two weeks in advance, and those who do not comply would be obligated to pay the workers. In November, as president of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, Chiu advocated for and enacted San Francisco’s Retail Workers Bill of Rights, which, like the statewide bill, required retail employers – including fast food franchises – to post schedules at least two weeks in advance.