Bernie Sanders Asks McDonald's to Boost Wages to $15 an Hour

(Bloomberg) -- McDonald’s Corp. shares dipped as Senator Bernie Sanders called on the fast-food chain to follow in Amazon.com Inc.’s footsteps and boost its minimum wage.

Bernie Sanders Asks McDonald's to Boost Wages to $15 an Hour

“If McDonald’s raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour and respected the constitutional rights of your workers to form a union, it would set an example for the entire fast food industry to follow,” the Vermont Senator wrote in a letter to the company’s chief executive officer, which he posted to his Twitter account on Thursday.

Bernie Sanders Asks McDonald's to Boost Wages to $15 an Hour

The restaurant chain’s shares pared earlier gains following the tweet, briefly turning negative for the day before reversing course. Shares were trading up 0.2 percent as of 2:23 p.m. in New York.

In recent years, the company has faced pressure from the union-backed Fight For $15 that’s demanded fast-food chains pay more and allow workers to organize. As McDonald’s moves to overhaul its chain with remodeled stores that include more self-order kiosks, there’s been speculation it will cut the need for hourly workers. But McDonald’s recently has said this isn’t true, with more workers actually required. The chain also said in 2015 it would raise pay at U.S. company-owned stores by at least $1 above the local minimum wage.

Sanders’ letter to CEO Steve Easterbrook follows news this week that Amazon will offer $15 an hour in November to more than 250,000 current employees, along with 100,000 more seasonal workers -- drawing praise from the Democratic lawmaker himself.

“I have zero doubt that other major corporations will follow suit,” Sanders said in an interview with Bloomberg News on Tuesday. He said Walmart Inc., Target Corp., the fast-food industry, and airlines in particular need to raise pay.

In response, McDonald’s said in an email that it provides opportunities for employees with “world-class training and education programs to help them build the skills needed for today’s workforce.” The chain said it has allocated $150 million over five years for its tuition assistance program. The company noted that 95 percent of its 14,000 domestic locations are owned and operated by franchisees who make their own decisions on pay and benefits.

While restaurants are facing pressure to raise wages across the U.S., they’re also dealing with a tight labor market that’s forcing companies and franchisees to hike pay to find enough hourly employees. Olive Garden-owner Darden Restaurants Inc. last month called it a “war for talent.”

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