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Bernie Sanders says McDonald’s should pay its workers $15 an hour

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Bernie Sanders (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Amazon? Check. Disney? Check. McDonald’s?

The fast food chain is Senator Bernie Sanders’ next minimum wage target. He wants McDonald’s to give its workers a pay raise to $15 an hour.

In a letter to CEO Steve Easterbrook on Thursday, Sanders demanded McDonald’s boost workers’ paychecks and let workers unionize. Sanders had previously called on Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to increase the company’s minimum wage, and Amazon followed through this week.

“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,” Sanders wrote in a letter addressed to Easterbrook and posted to his Twitter account.

Sanders said he talked to McDonald’s employees who complained that their current pay makes getting by difficult. He claimed that many McDonald’s employees need federal assistance, including food stamps and public housing.

He added that McDonald’s isn’t a poor company. The company made a $5.2 billion profit last year on nearly $23 billion in sales. McDonald’s is a healthy business: Revenue has increased recently as McDonald’s offered better food and technology, and the stock is up nearly 80% since Easterbrook took over in 2015.

In response to Sanders’ demands, McDonald’s pointed to its employee benefits programs.

“Our commitment to the communities we serve includes providing opportunities for restaurant employees to succeed at McDonald’s and beyond with world-class training and education programs to help them build the skills needed for today’s workforce,” the company said in a statement. For example, McDonald’s noted that it committed to provide employees with $150 million of tuition assistance over the next five years.

McDonald’s pays its restaurant employees differently depending on their location, but its website labels pay as “competitive.”

Each state has its own minimum wage requirements, so it’s difficult to to decipher how much McDonald’s hourly employees are paid. The company doesn’t make that information public. But a recent study by FiveThirtyEight estimated the hourly estimated pay to be around $9 an hour.

In 2015, McDonald’s said it would pay employees $1 a hour more than the minimum wage set by local law.

McDonald’s and its fast food rivals have faced pressure to boost hourly pay to $15. Supporters say a higher minimum wage is a remedy for widening inequality and will boost consumer spending, while opponents counter that it could reduce opportunities for employment, particularly for teenagers and others looking for entry level or low-skilled jobs.

Disney reached a deal with its unions to pay a minimum of $15 an hour at Disneyland in California in 2019 and at Disney World in Florida by 2021. Target raised its minimum wage for new hires to $12 an hour in September and plans to raise its minimum to $15 by the end of 2020.

McDonald’s (MCD) stock was unchanged following Sanders’ letter.

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