Ed Olivera said he would be willing to pay more to take his family to McDonald’s if employees made more money.
Standing outside McDonald’s in Edwardsville, he said not only did the restaurant offer a place for a meal, but an opportunity for his 2-year-old to play, tire herself out and fall asleep immediately after she gets home.
“Of course, I would pay more,” said Olivera. “These employees are as hard working as anyone else.”
The Larksville man’s comments came following an announcement Wednesday that McDonald’s company-owned U.S. restaurants, representing 90,000 workers, would raise their starting wages to a dollar more than the local minimum wage, which would then be periodically adjusted according to tenure and performance of the employee. In Pennsylvania, the minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.
Individual franchisees, however, are under no obligation to raise employee wages, which McDonald’s said, “make their own decisions on pay and benefits.”
Local restaurants, including three in the Wilkes-Barre area owned by Patricia Stella and 15 owned by Albert and Carol Mueller, Ltd., in Northeastern Pennsylvania, including one on the Dallas highway, can raise wages concurrent with the corporate action, but haven’t announced whether or not they will do so.
Olivera, a factory worker, said he doesn’t think that is enough.
“In a factory, you are rewarded for productivity,” said Olivera. “At McDonald’s, workers don’t have that incentive.”
Olivera believes even if the establishment raised prices in response to wage increases, people would keep coming back.
“If Norman Rockwell was still here, his painting would be of McDonald’s,” said Olivera. “It’s a slice of Americana.”
Laura Williams of Parsons, a customer at the Wilkes-Barre Township restaurant Wednesday, said she can only afford to eat out “once or twice a month.”
Williams makes minimum wage, and said she doesn’t think people can truly live on slightly over seven dollars an hour.
“Families have rent, gas and electric bills to pay,” she said. “This might be okay for a high school kid, but not for someone trying to support a family.”
Williams said she already works two jobs and had also put an application in at a McDonald’s.
McDonald’s move to raise wages seem to follow a corporate trend.
According to the Associated Press, Wal-Mart Stores, the largest private employer in the U.S. announced in February it would be raising its minimum pay to $9 beginning this month. Health insurer Aetna Inc. said it will begin paying a minimum of $16 an hour also beginning this month. TJX Cox, parent of discount store TJ Maxx, said its minimum pay rate will be $9 per hour beginning in June.
Ikea and Retailer Gap have also announced planned wage increases.
Many believe a national unemployment rate which has dropped to 5.5 percent and rumors of an increase in the federal and state minimum wages are behind what initially seems to be corporate generosity, as employers now compete for competent staff.