'Fight for $15' targets McDonald's with protests

The Fight for $15 campaign is organizing protests across the United States and Europe on Thursday, as several state legislatures consider their options for raising the minimum wage.

Thibault Camus/AP
Unionists and fast food workers demonstrate outside the McDonald's fast food restaurant at the Disneyland Paris theme park Thursday. In the United States, protesters calling for pay of $15 an hour are expected to hold demonstrations at McDonald’s stores around the country.

UPDATED April 16, 2016

Protesters with the Fight for $15 campaign are set to target McDonald's in major cities across the United States and Europe.

Their dramatic campaign to double the federal minimum wage is achieving momentum in part because its well-organized structure delivers a message many understand in a shifting economy.

About 100 unionists and workers organized at a McDonald's venue near Disneyland Paris early Thursday, and similar protests are planned for Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, and New York City throughout the day. Campaigners say they targeted McDonald's because of its visibility and bargaining power, although company representatives maintain they raised wages by $1 per hour just last year and continue to provide workers with access to high school and college degree programs. 

The campaign, however, has successfully captured a willing following from among low-wage workers. Sepia Rasheen Coleman, a home care worker in Tennessee, said she didn't pay much attention to the Fight for $15 campaign at first, but she changed her mind after sensing an impressive support network during her first protest. She has since then visited Washington, D.C., for organizational training.

"This is a mission, this is something I need to do," she told the Associated Press.

Logistics remain an obstacle to the campaign's goals. The argument against raising the minimum wage by any amount is a fear that it would ultimately hurt workers by forcing businesses to cut hours for some or lay off others. Many concerns have been raised about the dramatic nature of a shift to $15 per hour, as the highest state-wide minimum wage is $10 per hour in California and Massachusetts.

In Oregon, lawmakers have tried to address these concerns with a tiered minimum wage increase. The governor signed a law in March that takes into account the sharp lifestyle differences between ultra-urban Portland and the rural west of the state, which relies on farming and ranching. The law gradually raises the hourly wage starting in July of this year and ending in 2022. It ultimately moves Portland paychecks from $9.25 to $14.75 per hour, smaller cities to $13.50, and rural areas to $12.50, The Christian Science Monitor's Molly Jackson reported:

Region-adjusted plans could effectively address the two "seminal issues" of minimum wage, the centrist think tank Third Way has argued: purchasing power is shrinking, but unevenly. Given how much the cost of living varies from place to place, flat raise hikes, such as a federal law, would "either excessively raise employer hiring costs to a point leading to unnecessary job losses, or leave workers in high-cost areas unable to afford a basic standard of living," it wrote in a February report.

New York, which has a similar conflict between affluent New York City and "upstate" New York, could try a similar, two-tiered compromise in its own minimum wage debate, Reuters reported.

On April 4, California's Democratic legislators and governor negotiated a deal with labor unions to raise the state's minimum wage gradually to $15 per hour by 2022, The Christian Science Monitor reported. The governor can halt the raises in case of a recession.

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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