Fast-food protests to spotlight 'wage theft'

Fast-food protests are planned for several U.S. cities today as labor organizers look to bring attention to practices they say illegally deprive workers of their wages.
AP Wire
Mar 18, 2014

The protests are planned for about 30 cities, but it's not clear what the scope of the turnout will be. It's part of an ongoing campaign by labor groups to build support for pay of $15 an hour and bring attention to the rights of low-wage workers.

Organizers have also been referring workers to attorneys, who filed lawsuits in three states last week saying McDonald's was stealing their wages in a variety of ways, such as by docking paychecks for the cost of their uniforms.

McDonald's Corp. said it planned to investigate the allegations and take necessary actions. A representative for the company, based in Oak Brook, Ill., did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the planned protests.

The protests by labor groups since late 2012 have captured national media attention and served as an important backdrop for President Obama's push to lift workers' wages. The White House wants to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, or about $21,000 a year for full-time work. That's up from the current pay of $7.25 an hour, or $15,000 a year, which was last raised in 2009.

Protest organizers are getting financial and organizational support from the Service Employees International Union, as well backing from local Democratic lawmakers and community leaders. In New York City, public advocate Tish James and others were expected to turn out today for a rally at a McDonald's near the Empire State Building.

"The lawsuits that were filed last week put McDonald's on notice that fast food workers are aware that they're getting their money stolen," said Kendall Fells, who works for the Service Employees International Union but said he was "on loan" to the campaign for higher wages.

Fells said the actions would target McDonald's restaurants, although fast-food workers from across the industry would participate.

The lawsuits filed in California, Michigan and New York against McDonald's detail a variety of "wage theft" allegations. In Michigan, for example, workers said they were made to wait before clocking in for their shifts so restaurants could maintain a target ratio of labor costs as a percentage of revenue. The suit describes a detailed monitoring system by McDonald's Corp. that closely tracks such metrics at its more than 14,000 restaurants in the U.S.

While such practices are widespread across the industry, lawyers said they targeted McDonald's because of its size and position as an industry leader.

Turnout for past fast-food protests has varied greatly. In major cities, for example, TV crews and other media are alerted of a time and location the day before a large rally is planned. The crowd will then flood the restaurant, with workers and others speaking before dispersing or moving to another location after about a half-hour.

Elsewhere, the turnout has been much smaller and had little to no impact on operations.

For today, organizers said protests were scheduled in about 30 cities including Detroit; Memphis, Tenn.; Milwaukee; and Oakland and Sacramento, Calif. They noted that the number of cities could rise.

Brendan Brosh, a spokesman for James' office, said the New York City public advocate plans to propose legislation that would establish a hotline where workers could anonymously report actions that amount to wage theft. The legislation would also give city agencies expanded authorities to investigate wage theft, he said.

Brosh said James will also call on McDonald's Corp. to amend its franchise agreements to "punish franchisees that engage in wage theft."

Comments

Creedance

If they get their $15 an hour wage, what will that do for employees that are actually skilled? Does a $13 an hour job raise $7.50 an hour too? If not, then the skilled workers will take the jobs away from these people. That doesn't help the situation. Heck, for $15 an hour, I'll put in a few hours a week. I think a lot of people would. Just think of how many people would work part time and McDonald's would never have to worry about providing healthcare.

Lanivan

You might be on to something there: Many businesses that hire low-pay workers depend on the Federal government to provide health care, food stamps, and other benefits for their workers, rather than pay them a wage that would actually allow the worker to not require Federal assistance in order to sustain themselves.

More than half (52 percent) of the families of front-line fast-food workers are enrolled in one or more public programs, compared to 25 percent of the workforce as a whole.

The cost of public assistance to families of workers in the fast-food industry is nearly $7 billion per year.

At an average of $3.9 billion per year, spending on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) accounts for more than half of these costs.

Due to low earnings, fast-food workers’ families also receive an annual average of $1.04 billion in food stamp benefits and $1.91 billion in Earned Income Tax Credit payments.

People working in fast-food jobs are more likely to live in or near poverty. One in five families with a member holding a fast-food job has an income below the poverty line, and 43 percent have an income two times the federal poverty level or less.

Even full-time hours are not enough to compensate for low wages.

Think we're not paying for those low wages? This is REAL welfare - Corporate Welfare.

Creedance

Then I have an idea, don't find a career as a fast food worker. Be good at your job, get noticed, and pursue at making yourself better. How much time a day do you spend on trying to find numbers to support your arguments? Can't you find something a little more productive to do?

Lanivan

Those "numbers" are facts and statistics drawn from carefully constructed research. I learned a long time ago that before you spout off about something, it's best to do a little research first to make sure what you're spouting can be backed up with facts. I thought you'd find these facts interesting - apparently you'd rather not be troubled with facts, particularly if are different from your opinion. I find it very productive to find facts on any given subject. I hope you aren't in law enforcement, or any work that requires critical thinking or requires fact-based reasoning!

You seem to be concerned with the time involved in finding these facts. It took about a minute to google and bring up a series of articles; about two minutes to open and cut and paste into a comment; and another minute or so to compose the comment - about 5 minutes total. I think that's a fair price to pay to get the facts.

I've been a self-employed business owner for most of my working life, and have hired a number of fast food workers who impressed me. But there's a bit of a problem with your argument - the facts. If you can bring yourself to read the following, you might learn something:

"More than 3.5 million Americans work at or below the minimum wage, up more than 50 percent from a decade ago, and government data show that the numbers of minimum wage workers have swollen even among those with college and advanced degrees.

The number of college graduates working minimum wage jobs is nearly 71 percent higher than it was a decade ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' latest figures. As of 2012, 284,000 college graduates were working at or below the minimum wage, up from 167,000 in 2002 and more than two times the pre-recession low of 127,000 in 2006. The cohort includes an estimated 30,000 people with masters' degrees, a figure that is more than twice as high as it was in 2002 and three times as high as in 2006."

http://www.usnews.com/news/artic...

Creedance

Ha, comparing what I do in real life as opposed to commenting on a local newspaper is hardly worth my time looking for stats to support my opinion. It sounds like the issues you are listing is a result of overpopulation. It's only going to get worse no matter what your stance is. I'm not wasting my time on looking for articles to support that, but since you have the time, look it up.

Lanivan

US population has held fairly steady over the years. The problem lies with the brutal Great Recession of '07-'09, and the stagnant recovery. The pre-recession middle-wage jobs are being replaced with low-wage jobs.

"For every job that pays a median wage of at least $15 an hour there are 7 job seekers, the report found. The study defined a low-wage job as one that pays less than $15 an hour -- which happens to be the wage fast-food workers demanded in protests around the country last week.

In some places even $15 an hour may not be enough to get by. The definition of what constitutes a living wage varies nationwide, the report found. Workers in Montana need just $13.92 per hour to make ends meet, while New Yorkers need at least $22.66 per hour. Regardless of the variation, it still takes a lot more than the current $7.25 national minimum wage, or even the $10.10 minimum wage President Obama has proposed, to survive anywhere in the country.

Making ends meet certainly requires more than the $8.90 median wage for fast-food workers. That may explain why more than half of front-line fast-food workers rely on government assistance, according to a study from the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Illinois Champaign."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/20...

(You'll be relieved to know this comment only took about 6 minutes to compose!)

Creedance

There you go, you made me look up a stat. I know it's wiki, but it's the first thing that popped up. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dem...
Your definition of steady is very odd. I still stand by my opinion that people shouldn't be in fast food as a career. Of course that can't hold true for everyone due to circumstance and I'm not burying my head in the sand on that. Is it sad? Yes. Unfortunately, no matter what the wages are out there, there's always going to be someone at the bottom. Heck, I wish I made a tenth of what my CEO does, but I don't. I'm also not worried about what she makes. I'm more focused on what I need to do to increase my wages.

Lanivan

Thanks for the link! I stand corrected. Maybe I should have phrased it - "steadily increasing"? My argument is that extreme wealth inequality reaches a point whereby the scales are tipped so far in favor of the 1%, that the health of the economy, employment, and even the Nation becomes at risk.

Thank you for your kind words in the comment below. You have a strong work ethic, and seem to understand that as employees, our job is to serve the business that employs us, and that is key to job and wage security. At least that's how it used to be. The attitude among the top employers in this country has changed, along with globalization and their 'steadily' increasing power and influence over government and policy. In many large corporations, employees are not as valued or as fairly compensated as they used to be.

I guess that's the gist of my argument. The problems are not all the fault of worker attitudes - let's look at the 'facts' and realize upper management attitudes have become less than virtuous as well, and contribute greatly to the deterioration of the average worker attitude, not to mention the middle class.

Creedance

No problem. I understand where you are coming from, I really do. Those attitudes aren't just among upper management though. There is not much loyalty at any level. Lower level people want more, upper people want more. Everyone wants more which doesn't lead to a very good work environment. The issues are way above any governmental fixes. Everyone needs an attitude change. At this point, I think that something catastrophic needs to happen for attitudes to change. Believe it or not, I think we have the same goals, just different opinions about how to get there.

Lanivan

Agreed. I do think we reached some common ground. I understand when you say everyone needs an attitude change - not necessarily 'everyone', but there will always be a segment of society that views a job as being at their convenience. But I believe most people want a job where they can grow, work hard, learn, be valued, and see the fruits of their labor.

Creedance

I agree with most people wanting that. However, I would also speculate that most people that work in fast food don't have those expectations. I know I didn't when I worked at a local ice cream shop. Then again, I was only in junior high and high school.

jhowar16

Good lord, when I used to work at McDs, all they cared about was how good their numbers looked, and labor! I see nothing has changed.
I know it's fast food, but don't they care about their customers or employees anymore? Oh wait this nation is built on greed and run by greed!

Wolverine49457

Unions are losing ground so they are going to the most miserable and/or the greediest workers to gain traction in their attempts at making this a more socialist country. They promise much and deliver little other than adding to their own pockets on the backs of others.

If assembling burgers is a $15.00 an hour job I should be paid $1000 an hour because I actually have to think and make decisions….in fact why not have all corporations hand over all their operating capital to all the lowest paid workers then we can start hating the formerly underfunded for now they are wealthy and by this definition those that have more naturally got it through slave labor and/or uncaring for people therefore we must dislike and distrust them as we did the corporation and seek legislation to take the wealth they just got through legislation...So if they milk the company dry and the doors permanently close by George we sure taught them a lesson for being greedy… A worker deserves his wage but avoid over reaching as this could drift into the realms of being covetous.

zwesterhouse

Those people should get their $15/hr. The CEO's are making over $50,000,000/yr for Pete sake! How come no one is complaining about that. The Vice Presidents are making $10,000,000 plus perks, privileges and trips to Cancun. And the worker gets treated with contempt and indignation. Those CEO's are making $25,000 an hour. Vice Presidents making $10,000 an hour. They go to the drinking fountain and make more in the 5 minutes involved in walking to it, getting a sip and back to the desk. Thats over $2000!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Why isn't anybody complaining about that !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Creedance

If you want to fix that, stop going there. They built a successful empire. No one forces you to go there. Of course it seems that they are getting paid too much, but that's the nature of it. Ultimately, the public is determining the paychecks of the CEO, not the guy flipping the burgers.

Lanivan

You're kidding, right? Surely you mean the paychecks of CEO's are growing on the *backs* of the public, and all workers.

Statistics show that CEO's have fared far, far better than the typical worker, the stock market, or the US economy.

From 1978-2011, CEO compensation grew more than 725%.

Compare that with the growth in worker compensation during the same time period - 5.7%.

Another way of expressing it: In 2011, CEO-to-worker compensation is 200-1.

CEO to worker compensation stayed relatively steady and normal until around 1980, when the gap began to increase dramatically, thanks to: Reagan aggressively promoted trickle down economics ("voodoo" economics) and decades of tax policy geared very favorably towards corporations; the vast growth in global transcorporations and new global markets; the trend in cutting worker benefits, such as defined benefit pensions; the deregulation of the financial industry which spawned enormous wealth for banks and hedge funds, in particular; and, Citizens United which opened the floodgates of big corporate money to influence elections and policy by buying politicians that are beholden to them.

It's incomprehensible that with all the information out there on this subject, that people can still allow themselves to be brainwashed about CEO salaries.

http://www.epi.org/publication/i...

Creedance

With all those numbers you spent time looking up, you could have been in the yellowpages looking for local restaurants that offer lunch specials. You could have even gone to the store and picked up things to pack your own lunch.

Lanivan

I'm not sure how your reply has anything to do with CEO compensation spiraling out of control, but whatever. The fact is: I had a production line of packing lunches five days a week for years for the family - but I rarely need to even think about or spend any time with lunches these days. And I haven't eaten at McDonald's in years. I prefer spending my lunch break either exercising or finding facts.

Creedance

There you go, just think of how much money you've kept from the CEO over that time. One person at a time, we can make a difference. Isn't that a common mantra these days?

Lanivan

Ok - fair enough. Your argument is based on your concern for your fellow man - or rather, mainly the CEO's. You will be relieved to read the following 'facts':

"McDonald's Corp. more than tripled the pay packages last year for its new CEO Don Thompson and the man he replaced, Jim Skinner.

The pay increases came at a challenging time for the world's biggest hamburger chain. McDonald's is facing intensifying competition, a trend toward healthier eating and weak economic conditions in many countries where it operates.

McDonald's, based in Oak Brook, Ill., gave Thompson a package worth $13.8 million, up from the $4.1 million he received in 2011, according to a regulatory filing made Friday.

Skinner's pay meanwhile rose to $27.7 million from $8.8 million the year before, reflecting a $10.2 million payment as part of his retirement under his contract agreement". http://www.huffingtonpost.com/20...

Kinda makes us understand why McDonalds workers might be a wee bit upset.

Creedance

Why? Is profit sharing the pay model for McDonald's? Last I checked, it's a minimum wage job.

Lanivan

I suppose I could consider myself the CEO of my small business. I guess I'm Old School - when sales are down, I don't pay myself as much. I don't triple my salary on the backs of my employees. I value them too much. We all problem-solve as a team to find strategies to increase sales. They get paid first - then I get paid. My bad.

Barry Soetoro

You're going about it all wrong. Let me help fix that for you.

Lanivan

NOW you offer your services - just a few years too late. But, sorry - a new t-shirt won't help. Tried it, but no cigar.

Barry Soetoro

Take some time to think it over. I could come in and be the alleged "Chris Burns" of your enterprise. Besides, I'm sure you've already read that my Bronze Package isn't working out so well and I could use a DD from the Beer Summit back to work.

Lanivan

I took some time to think it over. When you submit your resume, be sure and list any home brew experience.

Creedance

Then I would love to work for you. I'd put forth my best effort. You'd be the kind of boss I'd want to have a career with. If I couldn't have the chance to work with you, I'd still highly respect you as a human being. You're a good person for sure. That's completely sincere as well. I do not respect those that use business models about themselves.

Lanivan

Over the years, I try to keep the bar high. My theory - an employer, when hiring, should try to see the potential to meet expectations; if those expectations are not met, don't mess around. If the expectations are met, try, to the best of one's ability, to provide the security, training, and compensation to help realize and grow that potential. Any other approach is unproductive and inefficient, the business suffers, and then one must ask at the end of day - why even have a business? What's the point of it all?

mlouiswolf

These people are just shooting themselves in the foot, and they don't see it. At $15/hr the competition for these jobs would become huge. To be paid $15 and barely use your brain with pretty much no stress (compared to a precision machinist, B2B sales, CNA, CAD Jockey or the like),lots of people would be interested in that.
At $15/hour, you don't get to miss work cause you over-slept, had a test, couldn't find a baby-sitter, your car wouldn't start, are fighting with your boyfriend and just too upset, or have a "head-ache". Those days are over, because the first time that you show up too hung-over to make eye-contact with customers your job goes to someone who will value it.
It could be a good thing for consumers. Prices go up, but at least you'd be served your food by competent, trust-worthy people with an interest in giving proper customer service.
It does raise a point, as to what to do with 50% of the former fast-food employees. Not much call for ditch diggers anymore.

Smurf

"Divide and Conquer!" Its the Socialist's battle cry. I see, by the comments, its working in Grand Haven.

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