The fast food giant wants ‘to advance, not impede’ the conversation around minimum wage.

By Mike Pomranz
March 27, 2019
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

For years, a “burger flipper” has been the prototypical low-wage, low-skill job whether fast food work deserves that designation or not. As a result, the fight to raise minimum wages to a “living wage” has largely focused on these fast food employees — through initiatives like the Fight for $15 — not just because they are a huge pool of low-wage workers, but also because their plight is relatable. Meanwhile, as one of the country’s largest fast food chains, McDonald’s has found itself in the middle of this discussion by default, forced to defend its labor practices. But in what may be a significant turning point, McDonald’s has apparently announced it’s having a change of heart.

Politico reports that McDonald's has sent a letter to the National Restaurant Association announcing that the chain intends to no longer participate in the trade group’s efforts to lobby against minimum-wage hikes at the federal, state or local level. “We believe increases should be phased in and that all industries should be treated the same way,” Genna Gent, McDonald's vice president of government relations, is quoted as writing. “The conversation about wages is an important one; it’s one we wish to advance, not impede.”

Though the ramifications of this change won’t be immediately evident, Politico also reported that organizations like the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) accepted it as a victory. “By sticking together and taking action on the job, courageous workers in the Fight for $15 and a Union have forced McDonald’s — the second-biggest employer in the world — to drop its relentless opposition to higher pay,” SEIU President Mary Kay Henry was quoted as saying.

Importantly however, though the National Restaurant Association described McDonald’s as a “valued member,” the organization didn’t appear to make any statement changing its own stance on minimum wage. The restaurant trade group has reportedly lobbied against minimum wage increases across the country.

So while McDonald’s may now be “committed to playing a meaningful role in the spaces we occupy,” as Gent’s letter apparently stated, whether that will be a tipping point for minimum wage workers everywhere is still to be seen.

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