Minimum wage debate echoes in Shockoe Bottom

Rolandah McMillan joined in the call for raising fast-food workers' minimum wage Thursday. Photos by Michael Thompson.

Rolandah McMillan joined in the call for raising fast-food workers’ minimum wage Thursday. Photos by Michael Thompson.

Workers and activists held a rally outside the McDonald’s in Shockoe Bottom last week as part of a nationwide celebration of a recent victory for fast-food workers up north.

A group of about 30 gathered outside the restaurant at 1800 E. Broad St. on Thursday. The rally was part celebration that New York plans to raise fast-food workers’ minimum wage to $15 per hour and part rallying cry for the same change to take place for Richmond workers.

The event was organized by Raise Up, a nationwide organization calling for the minimum wage to be $15 an hour and for the right for workers to form unions. Participants in the rally included Richmond area McDonald’s workers and members of the Virginia Service Employee International Union.

New York is expected to raise the minimum wage for fast-food restaurant workers

New York is expected to raise the minimum wage for fast-food restaurant workers in the next few years from $8.75 to $15. 

Rolandah McMillan, a former employee at the McDonald’s on Chamberlayne Avenue, gathered signatures for a petition to raise wages. She said she’d been involved with Raise Up for about a year trying to organize workers.

“They ain’t right,” McMillan said of McDonald’s. “They want to stop us from our union activities.”

McMillan said she would like to see the appointment of a wage board in Richmond to hold hearings on the minimum wage. Similar moves to review minimum wage policies are taking place in California and Washington, D.C.

The Virginia minimum wage has been $7.25 since 2009. Virginia is a right-to-work state, meaning workers cannot be forced to pay union dues, be discriminated against if they are not union members, or be required to join a union after a certain amount of time.

Of the nearly 3,000 McDonald’s locations in the U.S., 90 percent are franchises. Wages at its restaurants are set according to the job and local and federal laws. The company has said in public statements that it does not determine wages set by its franchisees.

As to the overall discussion of wage increases, McDonald’s has said publicly that any such changes should take place in a way that is manageable to businesses.

An employee at the East Broad Street McDonald’s said he didn’t think any of his fellow employees were outside protesting. He said he hadn’t joined the protest because he was afraid he’d lose his job.

Rolandah McMillan joined in the call for raising fast-food workers' minimum wage Thursday. Photos by Michael Thompson.

Rolandah McMillan joined in the call for raising fast-food workers’ minimum wage Thursday. Photos by Michael Thompson.

Workers and activists held a rally outside the McDonald’s in Shockoe Bottom last week as part of a nationwide celebration of a recent victory for fast-food workers up north.

A group of about 30 gathered outside the restaurant at 1800 E. Broad St. on Thursday. The rally was part celebration that New York plans to raise fast-food workers’ minimum wage to $15 per hour and part rallying cry for the same change to take place for Richmond workers.

The event was organized by Raise Up, a nationwide organization calling for the minimum wage to be $15 an hour and for the right for workers to form unions. Participants in the rally included Richmond area McDonald’s workers and members of the Virginia Service Employee International Union.

New York is expected to raise the minimum wage for fast-food restaurant workers

New York is expected to raise the minimum wage for fast-food restaurant workers in the next few years from $8.75 to $15. 

Rolandah McMillan, a former employee at the McDonald’s on Chamberlayne Avenue, gathered signatures for a petition to raise wages. She said she’d been involved with Raise Up for about a year trying to organize workers.

“They ain’t right,” McMillan said of McDonald’s. “They want to stop us from our union activities.”

McMillan said she would like to see the appointment of a wage board in Richmond to hold hearings on the minimum wage. Similar moves to review minimum wage policies are taking place in California and Washington, D.C.

The Virginia minimum wage has been $7.25 since 2009. Virginia is a right-to-work state, meaning workers cannot be forced to pay union dues, be discriminated against if they are not union members, or be required to join a union after a certain amount of time.

Of the nearly 3,000 McDonald’s locations in the U.S., 90 percent are franchises. Wages at its restaurants are set according to the job and local and federal laws. The company has said in public statements that it does not determine wages set by its franchisees.

As to the overall discussion of wage increases, McDonald’s has said publicly that any such changes should take place in a way that is manageable to businesses.

An employee at the East Broad Street McDonald’s said he didn’t think any of his fellow employees were outside protesting. He said he hadn’t joined the protest because he was afraid he’d lose his job.

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C. M. Reynolds
C. M. Reynolds
7 years ago

What these people are really fighting for is touch screen ordering terminals and more automation in the cooking process. As the price of labor increases relative to technology, businesses will find it cheaper to invest and implement new technology, while foregoing manual human labor. If they do get $15/hour, your average McD’s will go from having 10-15 working employees at a given point in time to only 4-5 (for example, it only takes one employee to run 4 self-checkout lanes at Wal-Mart). If these people had a basic understanding of economics, they would understand that if they suceed, then they… Read more »

Jay Richards
Jay Richards
7 years ago
Reply to  C. M. Reynolds

C.M. Reynolds,

If the introduction of ordering kiosks in Australia McDonalds is any indication, you’d actually be wrong.

McDonalds introduced (or is currently testing) kiosks in these stores not to eliminate or replace workers but to improve the customer ordering experience and allow the customer to create their own burger.

As it turns out, it’s been such a success that they’ve had to hire more workers.

McDonalds does quite alright in countries with higher minimum wages than the US and could survive here with those same wages.

Brian Ezzelle
Brian Ezzelle
7 years ago

Jay Richards, The problem is, a burger flipper job at McDonalds is not a job to support your family. Its only requires low basic skills. Basically anybody with a pulse and minimal physical capabilities can work at these fast food joints, hence the low wages. Supply and demand ring a bell? You see, most people wait till they graduate out of these entry level jobs before having kids, getting married, going into debt, etc. Not the opposite. And as we are now seeing in places like Portland, OR…folks are now realizing that these increases in min wage about the market… Read more »

Jay Richards
Jay Richards
7 years ago
Reply to  Brian Ezzelle

Brian Ezelle,

I think moving workers off of welfare and social benefits is exactly the intention of increased minimum wage. I wouldn’t really call that an unintended consequence.

Brian Ezzelle
Brian Ezzelle
7 years ago
Reply to  Jay Richards

It is when the employees are asking their employers to work less hours so they don’t loose their welfare benefits

http://townhall.com/tipsheet/danieldavis/2015/07/24/seattle-dealing-with-fallout-from-15-minimum-wage-n2029482

GUY BERTRAM
GUY BERTRAM
7 years ago

These jobs have low wages because they require low skills. Who promised these folks that they would be able to support themselves independently by cashiering or flipping burgers?? This entitlement mentality is sickening.

Bruce Anderson
Bruce Anderson
7 years ago

I think the real problem is that there isn’t a next tier of jobs for ‘burger flippers” to graduate to… Factory jobs are all gone, office clerical jobs are all gone. Union construction jobs are gone. Non-union construction jobs go to illegal immigrants… I guess they could graduate to changing bedpans, but is that really a step up?

Chris Tiller
Chris Tiller
7 years ago
Reply to  Bruce Anderson

That’s no excuse, they could climb the corporate ladder and work their way into management which even if that’s not something they’re interested in it gives them real world job experience and also another title on their resume when they apply for a real drive. The wages are the way they are because that’s what the market dictates. If they don’t like it they can get a different job.

Bruce Anderson
Bruce Anderson
7 years ago
Reply to  Chris Tiller

I think you’re missing a key point, Chris. Not everyone has the intellectual horsepower to “climb the corporate ladder….” or to write computer code. Folks who were not cut out for the university used to have another path available to a middle class life…. it’s hard to see that path anymore and that’s going to have a long term impact on our economy. Remember, Henry Ford infuriated status quo industrialists when he raised his line-workers pay to $5 a day from the going rate of $3. His strategy: He wanted every one of his workers to bay able to afford… Read more »

Bradley Purcell
Bradley Purcell
7 years ago
Reply to  Bruce Anderson

Reply to Guy and Brian — Wow, Guy, “whoever promised these people they could support themselves independently by flipping burgers?” And why shouldn’t they? The only entitlement mentality I see around here is from the one who expects other people to impoverish themselves just so there can be McD. on every corner. And whoever said that fast food jobs take no skill? From my occasional visits to FF outlets, I see jobs that take stamina, speed, excellent fine-motor coordination, and the ability both to tolerate stress, and work closely with others. Well worth a premium over starvation wages. The NYT… Read more »

Brian Ezzelle
Brian Ezzelle
7 years ago

Bradley, nobody here has stated that fast food workers and low skill / low wage workers do not work hard or questioned their work ethic. The point is, wages are set by supply and demand. A lot of people demand a quarterback who can consistently thrown TD’s but there is a small labor pool, hence the high wages in the NFL. Likewise with say brain surgeons or high tech crane operators. On the flip side (pun intended) the skills and mental abilities to work in fast food, or work the crops in the field, or sweep the floors of the… Read more »

Charles Frankenhoff
Charles Frankenhoff
7 years ago

Here’s one of the top economists in the world’s explanation of why raising the minimum wage that much would be a disaster.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/minimum-wage-madness/2015/08/02/0bdb0436-37ac-11e5-9739-170df8af8eb9_story.html

Though I’m amazed by the number of people who can’t get the basic concept that if you raise the price of something people will buy less of it.