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Labor Voices: Why I fight for a union as a McDonald's worker

Every year around this time, McDonald’s prepares for its annual shareholders meeting, where investors and executives gather to celebrate the company’s billions in profits and shareholder dividends. They make decisions about how stores should run, about things like workers’ pay, benefits, food prices, store policies and more.

One thing that McDonald’s leaves out: the voices of its workers. As a McDonald’s shift lead, I've invested 33 years in the world’s largest fast food chain. My voice deserves to be considered just as much as our shareholders.  

After more than three decades, I’m paid just $15.50 per hour, which is not enough to cover the rising cost of rent, food and gas. So, I find myself making sacrifices — skipping meals, overlooking my health needs and not spending time with family and friends. After all these years of working hard, I’m afraid that I still will not have anything saved up when I retire.

And why? Throughout the pandemic, McDonald’s has continued to net massive profits. Last year, McDonald’s made $7.5 billion in profits, but workers like me didn’t share in the wealth that we helped create. While CEO Chris Kempczinski was paid $20 million last year, they were handing out small raises to the frontline workers putting our health and safety at risk.

That is why I’ve been organizing with the Fight for $15 and a union. In order for our jobs to be secure and to be able to hold McDonald’s accountable for taking care of its workers, we need a union voice.

The benefit of unions is clear. According to a recent Economic Policy Institute report, “union workers are paid 11.2% more and have greater access to health insurance and paid sick days than their nonunion counterparts.” And research from the Center for American Progress shows that in addition to raising wages overall, unions also help lessen the racial wealth gap.

Further, there are numerous examples showing how unionized workplaces are safer and healthier. This pandemic has made clear just how important that is.   

In my store, workers and customers were allowed to come in without masks or practicing social distancing. It was difficult and scary being a frontline worker without protections and no voice to raise our concerns. And when I was diagnosed with COVID-19, I wasn’t provided any paid sick leave when I was sick.

At the same time, the pandemic has also strengthened workers' demand for a union voice.  All across the country, workers at McDonald's, Starbucks, Amazon and other major employers are fighting for their fundamental right to join together and negotiate for higher wages, benefits, safer conditions and the respect we all deserve. With a union, Black and Brown workers would have a voice to address sexual harassment, violence and racial discrimination on the job.

Workers across the country will continue to demand the right to join a union because unions are the key to racial and economic justice and to ensuring McDonald’s and other employers respect us, protect us and pay us a living wage. 

Patricia Moseley has been a leader with the Fight for $15 and a Union for 11 years.  For the last 33 years she has worked at a McDonald’s in Detroitn.

Labor Voices

Labor Voices columns are written on a rotating basis by United Auto Workers President Ray Curry, Michigan Education Association President Paula Herbart, Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights Executive Secretary-Treasurer Tom Lutz and selected Service Employees International Union members.