McDonald’s workers in Orlando held a strike with Fight for $15 on Wednesday, May 19th, 2021, joining a nationwide protest movement that has picked up steam as the nation struggles to recover from the Coronavirus pandemic.
McDonald’s employee Jamelia Fairley says, “We went on strike to demand $15 today, not in 2026. For a $15 minimum wage today and for McDonald’s to hear our demands for our rights to be protected at their workplace as well.
She went on, “Right now they are paying $11 an hour. I have been working at McDonald’s for 4 years and they started paying me $11 an hour, I don’t think that’s right.”
On Coronavirus protocols Fairley said, “We are demanding PPE as well. We still wear masks and gloves. In the beginning they weren’t demanding it. They had us wearing coffee filters and hair nets.They weren’t really taking it serious.”
One big issue has been paid time off during the pandemic, both to stay home when sick and to get vaccinated. Fairley says, “They told us that we would only have 18 hours of paid time off and sick leave.” and “No, they are not offering paid time off to get vaccinated.”
“We’re demanding workers and union rights as well. We are demanding them to respect us by paying us $15 an hour so we can support our home. Protect us with the PPE. Give us actual paid time and sick leave that we need for our families as well. We need union rights.”
Fight For $15 notes that the reason why there is paid time off at all is because this McDonald’s is corporately-owned, but that most franchisees do not offer any paid sick leave at all. During the pandemic, it has been noted that lack of paid sick leave in the United States has been a major driver for infections and spread.
Florida’s legislature passed a law providing immunity to businesses from Coronavirus-related lawsuits. It defines a “COVID-19-related claim” as “any claim for damages, injury, or death filed against a person, business, school, governmental entity, or religious organization that “arises from or is related to COVID-19.” It is part of a series of laws that sought to protect businesses at the cost of workers.
McDonald’s recently announced that they will raise wages at corporate-owned locations, under pressure from a lack of applicants as restaurant workers rethink jobs after a difficult pandemic in what has led to finger-pointing game between restaurant owners, politicians, and workers as restaurant associations and lobbyist groups seek to stop any push for equity by workers.
However, the vast majority of McDonald’s locations are owned by franchisees who are not currently committing to raising wages or forced to participate by corporate.
Orlando Weekly recently reported that Orlando is now less affordable than San Francisco, which is infamous for out of control rent prices that swallow multiple paychecks, thanks to a Coronavirus housing freeze. They reported, “the Orlando-Kissimmee metro would require a person to work 75.5 hours to pay rent on the average area apartment, just beating out San Francisco’s 73.4 hours.”
This problem in rent and living costs is being exacerbated by the influx of new people moving to Florida every day. Florida voters approved an increase to $15 an hour by 2026, but unfortunately the cost will certainly have risen by the time that comes. Workers say they cannot wait and are calling on McDonald’s to take action now.