As retailers struggle to hire workers, Chipotle became the first brand to launch a career fair on Discord, the company said. Discord is a group chatting platform originally built for gamers, but the service is now used by all kinds of online communities. The Discord server hosted recruitment content and sessions with Chipotle employees on benefits and career paths.
Chipotle is hiring for thousands of jobs, including 20,000 open roles, plus workers to staff the 200 new locations planned to open this year. Hiring has been difficult for many companies that have reported a lack of candidates for open positions. But retail and restaurants are are also struggling to retain workers who want to leave for new opportunities. That’s making the sector’s labor crunch even worse.
McDonald’s workers in 15 US cities plan to strike for higher wages on May 19, the day before the company’s annual shareholders meeting.
Employees will go on strike to demand all McDonald’s workers make at least $15 per hour. So far, the strikes are planned for Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Chicago, Detroit, Flint, Kansas City, St Louis, Raleigh-Durham, Charleston, Houston, and Milwaukee. A demonstration is also planned outside the company’s Chicago headquarters, organizers from the advocacy group Fight for $15 said.
McDonald’s did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Workers say McDonald’s is offering all kinds of perks to attract workers amidst the labor shortage – but not raising pay. One organizer shared a photo of a $500 signing bonus at a location in Fayetteville, North Carolina. And in Florida, one McDonald’s is paying candidates $50 just for an interview, but even that isn’t creating enough applicants, Insider previously reported.
Organizers cited McDonald’s massive revenue and the danger of working during COVID as reasons for striking.
“Last year, in the middle of a global pandemic, McDonald’s made $5 billion and gave billions to its shareholders – all while workers like me risked our lives to keep stores running for less than $15/hr. I can’t afford to wait any longer for a raise,” Hakim Dumkia, a worker in St. Louis, said. “I plan to go on strike to say to McDonald’s: don’t wait for politicians in Washington to pay us what we need to survive. We supported McDonald’s through the pandemic, and now you need to pay us enough to support our families and our communities.”
The striking workers also demand the company withdraw from the National Restaurant Association (NRA) and International Franchise Association (IFA). In 2019, McDonald’s announced it would no longer lobby against increased minimum wages, but the two lobbying organizations continue to fight minimum wage increases.
In 2021, the NRA wrote a letter to Congress advocating against the Raise the Wage Act, which would have raised the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025. Fight for 15 data shared with Insider shows that the NRA and IFA spent over $3.2 million lobbying against increased wages since April 2019, after McDonald’s agreed to stop working against it.
Neither organization immediately responded to requests for comment.
The McDonald’s workers’ grievances speak to a larger issue across the fast food industry and in retail more broadly. Nearly half of all US restaurants say they are “severely understaffed.”
Most progressives – really, most Americans – agree that income inequality is a tremendous problem. For over 40 years, the vast majority of profits have gone to the wealthiest 10% of the economy, and a gigantic portion of those gains have been scooped up by the wealthiest .01 percent. The $50 trillion dollars that used to go to the American working class has now been leveraged to a fraction of the population, and that disparity is now obvious to everyone.
In this case, though, identifying the problem is the easy part. A lot of very smart people have many different ideas about how to alleviate income inequality, and many of these ideas aren’t compatible with one another. So decisions will have to be made about how to get that money back in the pockets of ordinary Americans.
For Nick Hanauer, the host of the “Pitchfork Economics” podcast, the first step to address income inequality was easy. In Washington state, Hanauer became one of the leading voices in the Fight for $15, which called for a $15 minimum wage. Now that it’s been endorsed by almost every single high-profile Democratic politician, $15 seems obvious, though Forbes in 2013 characterized it as a “near insane” proposition.
In the latest episode of “Pitchfork Economics,” Hanauer describes those early days of the Fight for $15 to former presidential candidate and current New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang. And Yang is in agreement with Hanauer’s assessment that raising the minimum wage is good for the economy.
“Just about everything out of your mouth, I’ve always agreed with,” Yang told Hanauer. “But I think you would agree with me, particularly during this pandemic, that the extremity [of America’s income inequality] is accelerating and getting worse.”
Yang’s approach to fixing the economy
The entrepreneur and New York City mayoral candidate is perhaps the most high-profile proponent of the universal basic income (UBI), in which the government would send every American a check that they could then spend however they wish.
“If I had a choice between something like universal basic income and a higher minimum wage, I would choose universal basic income,” Yang said. “But if I don’t get universal basic income, then I’m all for raising the minimum wage.”
“I’m on exactly the other side of that trade,” Hanauer said. “I really do believe in capitalism. I do believe that it is a great economic system – the best ever devised.” At the same time, Hanauer rejects the idea that “the whole system will come tumbling down if companies are required to pay their workers enough to live in dignity without food stamps.”
Yang told Hanauer that when he considered getting into public life, “I looked at the political possibility of changing the labor standards along the way you suggest.”
Universal basic income versus a higher minimum wage
Yang believes that the idea of a UBI is simpler and more suited to the modern world than reforming and updating the suite of labor standards instituted in the first half of the 20th century. He considers automation to be the leading problem for American workers in the 21st century, and believes that a significant portion of the American workforce will be made obsolete once technologies like self-driving cars and trucks finally mature.
If Yang’s dire prediction is correct, and millions of Americans are forced out of work and essentially considered useless to the labor force, a UBI might be better-suited to solve that crisis.
Hanauer, however, believes that the coming wave of automation is not significantly different than the uncountable waves of automation that workers have lived through since the dawn of civilization. The invention of assembly lines, industrial farming equipment, and personal computing caused disruption in their fields that temporarily put people out of work, but all three technologies created jobs in the long run.
Hanauer believes that the real battle is to make sure that the newly created jobs pay enough that workers can afford to fully participate in the economy, because their consumer demand is what creates more jobs.
A meaningful path forward
The problem with internal debates among progressives is that there is no one right answer, and that these economic ideas are largely exclusive of each other – no politician that I know of is simultaneously calling for expanding the minimum wage and also establishing a regular series of UBI payments for all Americans.
The path forward can only be found through good-faith, informed debates like this, deliberating what action is possible, which outcomes are preferable, and who is persuadable. The debates of today are the crucibles that shape the policy of tomorrow.
Of the 32 million workers who would receive a raise under a $15 minimum wage, 24 million are in states where senators voted against it, according to a new report from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
That works out to 75% of all the workers who would benefit from a higher federal minimum. The 32 million workers who would be impacted represent 21% of the overall workforce, according to the report.
Sen. Bernie Sanders’ push to include a provision for raising the wage to $15 by 2025 was voted down on Friday. Seven Democrats – including the moderates Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema – joined Republicans in voting down the measure. Also voting against was independent Angus King of Maine, who caucuses with the Democrats.
The EPI report found that increasing the minimum wage to $15 by 2025 would also benefit America’s essential and frontline workers. It would be a wage hike for 19 million of them, around 60% of all workers impacted.
A $15 minimum wage has broad support. In an Insider poll, over 60% of respondents said they would definitely or probably support a $15 minimum wage. Respondents were more split on when an increase should come into effect: 39% said that, were the increase to go into effect, a “$15 minimum wage should be implemented immediately.” Conversely, 50% would “prefer a phased rollout, gradually raising the minimum wage annually to $15 in 2025.”
Sanders’ Raise the Wage Act would have raised the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025. Even that schedule wasn’t quick enough for some minimum wage workers.
“We’ve been talking about this issue for years, and not just a couple of years,” Murray told Insider after her testimony. “That’s why I’m saying: When is the time gonna come? 2025 is too late for me, as I see it, for all workers across the country. “
Overall, the EPI report finds that the $15 increase by 2025 would have resulted in an annual pay increase of $3,300 for those working year-round.
McDonald’s has reportedly been collecting information on workers campaigning for a $15 federal minimum wage, including using a team of intelligence analysts to track employees’ social media.
The company has been gathering information for years, using intelligence analysts at its Chicago and London offices to track workers linked to activist groups that advocate higher wages, better working conditions, and unionization, Vice’s Motherboard reported.
This includes monitoring the Fight for $15 campaign and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to find out which McDonald’s workers are active in the movement, Motherboard reported, citing documents it had viewed as well as two McDonald’s workers with direct knowledge of the surveillance.
“This story is laden with false information, pulling together disparate pieces of information to build a sensationalist narrative that is inaccurate and misleading,” a McDonald’s spokesperson told Insider.
The company denied using fake social media accounts to gather information, and said its intelligence team is focused on threats to safety, such as natural disasters and civil unrest. The company uses publicly available information, the spokesperson added.
Fight for $15, which is financed by the SEIU, has been staging walkouts since 2012 to advocate for an increase in the minimum wage. The group has targeted McDonald’s in particular, whose workers have been organizing protests calling for higher pay.
Documents viewed by Motherboard outline the aims of McDonald’s intelligence services, including collecting “political intelligence on difficult political landscapes in complex markets that could cause significant business disruption,” and finding out “how and where will FF$15 attack the brand.”
One of the reports seen by Motherboard addressed “Ongoing FF$15 Activity Against McDonald’s During the COVID-19 Crisis.” It included information like the number of in-person and “virtual” protests the group had held and the amount of advance warning staff gave employers of their strike action.
And since at least last year, the fast-food giant has been collecting online data to monitor social media accounts, the sources told Motherboard. This includes reconstructing the friends lists of those involved in the labor movement, and using fake Facebook profiles, the sources said.
McDonald’s wanted to find out “where the key players are, and who they know,” a former corporate employee at the company told Motherboard.
A McDonald’s spokesperson denied those allegations, telling Insider the company “has never used fake social media accounts to actively gather information, including labor activity.”
The intelligence team is “solely focused on identifying threats to safety, including natural disasters and civil unrest, that could pose harm to employees and franchisees,” the spokesperson said.
The company uses “publicly available information, in full compliance with the law and with our own ethical standards,” they added.
McDonald’s worker Gloria Machuca, who earns $9.50 an hour, told Insider’s Juliana Kaplan that the minimum wage increase would change her life. Until recently she worked 80-hour weeks across two different McDonald’s branches to support her six children.
“It is not fair that we work so much and that we have to suffer this much,” she said.
In response to Motherboard’s report, Machuca told the publication that workers are “not afraid” and that news of the information gathering won’t stop them.
“These desperate efforts by McDonald’s only show the power of the movement that we’ve built over the past eight years,” she added.
The federal minimum wage, currently $7.25, has not been raised in more than a decade, but Biden’s attempts face opposition from both Republicans and Democrats.
Companies are increasingly taking the matter into their own hands. Among those that have raised, or announced plans to raise, their hourly minimum wage to $15 or higher are Wayfair, Starbucks, Target, Amazon, and Costco.
Outside of Washington, though, the $15 minimum wage seems to have strong support, and it has for years. A 2019 Insider poll found that 63% of respondents supported or strongly supported an increase. Since then, the economy and low-wage employment have been ravaged by the pandemic.
In Insider’s most recent poll, participants were asked: Do you support increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour?
Of the 1,130 respondents, 44% said they would definitely support the increase, while 21% said they probably would.
Conversely, 15% of respondents said they probably wouldn’t support it, 17% said they definitely wouldn’t, and 4% didn’t know.
Party affiliations seemed to play a role in responses:
58% of respondents who said they would probably vote in their state’s Democratic primaries or caucuses would “definitely” support an increase to $15 an hour.
But 28% of likely Republican voters would “definitely” support the increase.
Conversely, 9% of likely Democratic voters “definitely would not support” the raise, while 32% of likely Republican voters “definitely would not support it.”
There was also some divide along generational lines:
52% of respondents between 30 and 44 “definitely would support” the increase, the highest percentage among age groups.
Meanwhile, 25% of respondents over the age of 60 “definitely would not support” the raise.
The current Democratic plans would gradually increase the federal minimum to $15 by 2025. Respondents to Insider’s poll were asked: If the federal minimum wage was increased to $15 per hour, do you have a preference about how that would be implemented?
39% said that, if the increase were to happen, the “$15 minimum wage should be implemented immediately.”
But 50% would “prefer a phased rollout, gradually raising the minimum wage annually to $15 in 2025.”
When it comes to raising the minimum wage, it seems that slow and steady wins the race.
SurveyMonkey Audience polls from a national sample balanced by census data of age and gender. Respondents are incentivized to complete surveys through charitable contributions. Generally speaking, digital polling tends to skew toward people with access to the internet. SurveyMonkey Audience doesn’t try to weight its sample based on race or income. Polling data collected 1,154 respondents February 22, 2021 with a 3 percentage point margin of error.
But both versions of passing the increase would see the minimum wage get to $15 only gradually, after several years. Under the Raise the Wage Act of 2021, the minimum wage would gradually increase to $15 until 2025. Then it would be indexed to median wage growth.
For some, that delay to $15 is jarring. President Joe Biden said throughout his campaign – and in a presidential debate – that he supported a $15 minimum wage, but at the time he didn’t provide a timeline for that rollout.
“President Biden campaigned on the promise of a $15-per-hour minimum wage, and to hear him backpedal on that promise and propose a gradual increase over time is disheartening,” Cynthia Murray, a Walmart worker for over 20 years and member leader with United for Respect, wrote in a statement to Insider. “We know that $15 an hour is the bare minimum of what workers need to survive.”
So why a gradual increase?
Ben Zipperer, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), said that $15 in 2025 would be an “appropriate” level since it would put a dent in “poverty wages.”
“There is a kind of a large hole that we’ve dug ourselves in having low minimum wages relative to what workers need,” he told Insider. “And so then I think it does make sense to have some kind of gradual set of increases, because you do want to give time for some businesses to accommodate the higher wage schedule.”
Researcher Yannet Lathrop of the National Employment Law Project previously told Insider that a gradual increase makes sense, as in some states a $15 minimum wage is more than double the current rate. She said that, if their minimums were closer to $15, it would make sense to do the increase in one or two steps.
Broadly, Zipperer said, minimum wage increases used to be more frequent and roughly track the productivity of the economy. But that slowly came to a halt by the 1980s, when there were very few minimum wage increases – leading to a fall in value of the minimum wage. It hasn’t caught up since.
“Had we continued since the 1960s to increase minimum wages in accordance with the productivity of the economy, the minimum wage today would be over $20 an hour,” Zipperer said. “So the money is there. The economy can support much higher wages. It’s just that we’ve effectively redistributed that money away from low-wage workers towards the highest-paid people in the economy.”
And while a minimum wage increase is one step towards addressing that, Zipperer said it’ll take a “larger set” of policies such as higher taxes on higher income and stronger collective bargaining rights to correct this dynamic.
When it comes to workers like Murray expressing disappointment over how long it’ll take to actually receive that raise, Zipperer said he “can’t disagree with that.” Groups like Fight for 15 have been advocating for higher minimum wages for years.
“It is a really a negative mark on this country that we have kept minimum wages so low for so long,” he said. “We have a very large hole to climb out of if we’re going to actually pay people decent wages. And that is the product of decades of infrequent and inadequate minimum wage increases.”
“I do support a $15 minimum wage,” Biden said during the town hall. “I think there is equally as much, if not more, evidence to dictate that it would grow the economy and, long run and medium run, benefit small businesses as well as large businesses, and it would not have such a dilatory effect. But that’s a debatable issue.”
Biden said the concerns of business owners for how this rate changes are “totally legitimate,” but stressed the importance of a gradual raise.
“We’re at $7.25 an hour. No one should work 40 hours a week and live in poverty,” he said.
While a majority of Americans support the $15 minimum wage, per Insider polling, it’s still a contentious measure. There are concerns over potential employment losses and the big picture impacts.
To get a closer look at the benefits of raising the minimum wage, Insider looked at the minimum wage as it currently stands and when it may be $15 using various metrics, such as a state’s cost of living or the ratio between a minimum wage and a median wage.
The following maps and table take a closer look at the value of the current minimum wage and a proposed $15 minimum wage:
The federal minimum wage has been $7.25 since 2009; here’s when every state last increased their minimum wage.
The last time a state saw a minimum wage increase varies. Some minimum wage workers haven’t been paid a higher wage since the last time the federal raise was increased on July 24, 2009 as part of a three-step increase mandated by the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007.
Read Insider’s full story on the last time every state had a minimum wage increase here.
A common way to look at the minimum wage is to compare it to the median wage.
The median wage is the wage at which half of workers are paid more, and half are paid less. Comparing the minimum wage to the median wage can help identify how states will benefit from a boost to the minimum wage.
The ratio of the minimum wage to the median wage is called the Kaitz index. The higher the ratio — meaning the more people making close to the minimum wage — the more people will benefit from a minimum wage raise, since those near-minimum wage workers are likely to see their pay increase.
For example, New York’s median wage per the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2019 was $22.44, and the current minimum wage is $12.50, meaning the minimum wage in New York is 55.7% of its median wage.
Meanwhile, Texas’ minimum wage is much smaller than its median wage compared to New York. Texas’ minimum wage of $7.25 is 39.7% of its median wage of $18.28.
Read Insider’s full story on the Kaitz index here.
It is possible to also look at this ratio with a $15 minimum wage to see how that rate would stack up against what a typical worker earns in every state.
Insider similarly used the median wage of every state to calculate the ratio of a $15 minimum wage to the state’s median wage. If the minimum wage was raised to $15, it would be over 60% of the median wage in every state.
For instance, a $15 minimum wage in Massachusetts would be 62.1% of its median wage in 2019 of $24.14, the lowest ratio among the states because Massachusetts has the highest median wage.
Read Insider’s full story on the Kaitz index here.
But $15 wouldn’t go as far in states with higher costs of living compared to states with lower costs of living.
A $15 minimum wage will mean something different depending on where you live and work. Some states and cities are more expensive to live in than others. This map shows how much a $15 minimum wage will be worth in each state, based on an adjusted value using regional price parities.
This means states with higher regional price parities than the national average, like Hawaii and California, would mean the value of $15 is worth less than the US average value of $15. On the other hand, states with lower regional price parities, like Mississippi and New Mexico, would mean the value of $15 is worth more than $15 at the national average.
Read Insider’s full story on how much $15 is worth in every state here.
Assuming a 2% inflation rate over the next few years, a $15 minimum wage in 2025 would be the same as around $13.90 today.
Even if an increase to the federal minimum wage isn’t passed soon, there are several states that have scheduled increases rising to an eventual $15 minimum wage. In California, minimum wage workers at places with 26 or more employees will see a $15 minimum wage as soon as next year.
Florida, where a supermajority of voters supported a ballot measure during the election that would raise the minimum wage to $15, will see annual increases that will reach that level in 2026.
Target inflation is 2%, and under this scenario, a federal minimum wage of $15 in 2025 is the same as about $13.86 in 2021.
“I think that under all current forecasts of how inflation is going to play out over the next four years, it wouldn’t be worth that much less in 2025 than it’s worth now,” Harvard PhD scholar Anna Stansbury told Insider.
Read Insider’s full story on what a $15 minimum wage would be in 2021, for the federal minimum wage and several states gradually increasing the minimum wage to $15, here.
On January 1, the minimum wage in Florida increased from $8.56 to $8.65. It will increase to $10 effective September 30.
Florida is incrementally raising its minimum wage to $15 by 2026, making it the most conservative state to do so, as Insider previously reported.
In Illinois, the minimum wage increased from $10 to $11.
Illinois also has two areas with different minimum wages, according to the Economic Policy Institute: Chicago and its surrounding Cook County. In Chicago, the minimum wage will increase from $14 to $15 on July 1. In Cook County, the minimum wage of $13 will see an annual increase on July 1 tied to the consumer price index.
In Maine, the minimum wage increased from $12 to $12.15.