Un-American Wage Theft: Chicago Fast Food Workers Protest Against Wage Theft

Un-American Wage Theft: Chicago Fast Food Workers Protest Against Wage Theft

Outrage grows as new poll shows that 92% of Fast Food workers in Chicago have experienced wage theft; Stealing from employees is rampant industry-wide

CHICAGO– Chicago fast-food workers protested Wednesday against systemic and illegal wage theft in the industry—just days after the first-ever national poll of fast-food workers showed companies like McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s are stealing money from 89 percent of their employees nationally and 92 percent in Chicago.

The action comes as two former McDonald’s managers spoke out for the first time about how they were forced to steal from workers’ checks. In a video made public Tuesday, the managers talk about how they shaved time off of workers schedules, among other practices, so they wouldn’t “blow labor,” or spend more than they were supposed to, on workers.

“Its ridiculous that McDonald’s is stealing money from their workers, while we are struggling to survive on the low wages they give us,” said Mayra Avila, a McDonald’s employee and mother of a young daughter. “This poll shows exactly why I’m fighting for justice, a $15 living wage, and the right to form a union. How can these corporations, that are making record profits, also steal from their workers? Its inexcusable.”

Holding signs that read “WE SUPPORT THE YOUTH ATHLETES, WE DON’T SUPPORT WAGE THEFT” and “WAGE THEFT IS CRIMINAL” Chicago fast-food workers and supporters protested at the United Center during McDonald’s All-American Game demanding that fast-food companies stop the illegal theft of workers’ pay. Workers also distributed mock game programs that included a lineup of McDonald’s top paying executive versus some the average pay that their workers receive and the wage theft survey results. The iconic “hamburgler” also made an appearance and held a sign reading “WATCH YOUR PAYCHECK YOU COULD BE NEXT.” Workers spoke of fast-food companies forcing them to work off the clock, work through breaks, and making them pay for cash register shortages.

“For the last four years that I’ve worked for McDonald’s I was expected to count my cash register before clocking in. I also had to count my cash register after clocking out. This took about 20-30 minutes everyday,” said Adriana Alvarez, a McDonald’s employee and mother of a young son. “McDonald’s has literally been stealing my wages and my time every day for the last four years.”

The first-ever national poll of fast-food workers, conducted by Hart Research and released Tuesday, shows that the wage theft described by the McDonald’s managers pervades the entire fast-food industry. Companies like McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s are stealing money from 89 percent of their employees nationally and 92 percent in Chicago, according to the poll of 1,088 fast-food workers in the nation’s 10 largest metropolitan areas.

Since November 2012 fast-food workers have been campaigning for $15 and the right to form a union without retaliation. As the campaign spread to more than 100 cities, it quickly became apparent that workers in the industry are victims of widespread illegal pay practices that erode their already meager salaries.

In addition to showing that nearly nine out of every 10 fast-food workers experience some form of wage theft, the poll shows:

92 percent of Burger King workers, 84 percent of McDonald’s workers and 82 percent of Wendy’s workers are victims of wage theft;

60 percent of fast-food workers have experienced three or more different types of wage theft;

60 percent of fast-food workers have been required to perform tasks before clocking in or after clocking out;

26 percent of fast-food workers have not always been paid time-and-a-half for overtime hours they worked.

“When workers get their wages stolen, they have to somehow make up the difference. Often workers have to go out and get a second or third job because McDonald’s made the decision to steal their wages and not pay them fully,” said Rev. C.J. Hawking, executive director of Arise Chicago at a previous wage theft related protest. “We know that a healthy economy depends on paying their workers enough wages so that they can afford the basics. And it also depends on businesses not stealing from their workers. When workers are treated unfairly and illegally, the entire economy suffers, including local small businesses.”

Last month, class-action lawsuits filed in California, Michigan and New York alleged McDonald’s is systematically robbing employees by forcing them to work off the clock, shaving hours off their time cards and not paying them overtime, among other practices. The suits demand McDonald’s, which earned nearly $5.6 billion in profits in 2013, pay back the stolen wages and stop its illegal theft of workers’ pay.

And late last month, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a second settlement with a major fast-food company for stealing workers’ pay. The settlement with Domino’s, which followed one with McDonald’s earlier in March, means that workers have won back nearly $1 million in stolen wages in just the last few weeks.

Here in Chicago elected officials pledged to hold McDonald’s and other fast-food companies accountable.

“We need to get our economy moving again – and fast-food workers are leading the way. They’ve gone on strike, fighting for $15 and the right to form a union without retaliation, fueling a national debate on income inequality and creating momentum to raise wages,” said Alderman Fioretti. “Wage theft makes it even harder for low-wage workers to keep up with rent and bills and support their families. These violations are a direct result of the way McDonald’s and other fast-food companies operate their business. They expect a certain level of service and profits and the only way they can make that happen is if there isn’t enough money on the table to pay workers for every hour they work.”

Local Contact: Deivid Rojas 312-219-0008 deivid@fightfor15.org
National Contact: Laura Brandon, 202-641-8477,laura.brandon@berlinrosen.com

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