Philly Fast Food Workers Stand Up Against Wage Theft

mc dOn April 3, Fight for Philly joined fast food workers and community and faith leaders to protest against systemic and illegal wage theft (video) in the fast food industry.  Fast food workers also kept up their demands for $15/hr and the right to form a union.  Workers from multiple fast food chains stood outside a McDonald’s at Broad and Allegheny with nearly 100 supporters as many cars honked support and passers-by cheered.

Days earlier, 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. And a recently-released  video shows two former McDonald’s managers speaking out for the first time about how they were forced to steal from workers’ checks.   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.Mc d 1

Philadelphia fast-food workers and supporters held signs that read “Stop stealing wages” and “Low pay is not OK” in front of McDonald’s.  They chanted, “Low pay is not ok!” and “We can’t survive on $7.25!”

“I know about wage theft,” said Crystal Lopez, a 25 year old Dunkin Donuts employee in Philadelphia. “A few months ago, our store found money missing from the register.  Nobody knew what happened.  I suggested calling the police, but the owners “didn’t want the trouble.”  Instead, they made all the workers pay it back!  That’s right – they had NO evidence any of us were responsible, but they took $2,000 from workers’ tips.  Why couldn’t they report it and file an insurance claim?  They didn’t want to spend money to have cameras in the store to see where the money really went, so they just made us pay for it!  That’s why I am standing up proud to join my fellow workers in calling for $15/hr and a union! “

Pastor Larry Patrick said, “I am standing in prayer with fast food workers because our city and our communities need good jobs that keep people out of poverty and support families.  We need to speak out against wage theft, which offends our religious and moral values and keeps money from those who need it most.  Hard work is supposed to be a way to get ahead, not a dead-end trap.  These huge corporations can easily afford to pay their workers a living wage and treat them with dignity, and it’s long past time they did.”

Justin Watson, a 29 year-old employee of the McDonald’s, spoke to the crowd. He said, “I barely make enough to support myself, but I also support my kids and try to help my parents and brother. $8/hr is just not enough. I struggle every single day…. I have learned to keep precise records of when I clock in and out and take my breaks. Yet every time I get paid, it is for less than what I think I worked. It doesn’t add up. I’ve been working for a long time and have never had this problem with other jobs. You would think that a company that made $5.5 billion in profits in 2012 alone should be able to pay their workers for all the hours they work!”

The first-ever national poll of fast-food workers, conducted by Hart Research, 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, according to the poll of 1,088 fast-food workers in the nation’s 10 largest metropolitan areas.

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.

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.

The fast food worker movement clearly has energy, and Fight for Philly will be supporting workers in their fight for dignity, respect, and fair wages.  Their fight is our fight!


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