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REPORT: A Whopping 84% of NYC Fast Food Workers Have Experienced Wage Theft

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A staggering new statistic does much to explain why fast food workers are striking from New York to Milwaukee.

According to Fast Food Forward, 84% of fast food workers surveyed report having experienced wage theft at least once.  For delivery workers, the number is an incredulous 100 percent.  

The issue is finally coming into focus on a national level.  Exposure from a sweeping series of protests has invigorated worker-supportive lawmakers such as New York AG Eric Schneiderman who is now investigating pay practices in the fast food industry. The fast food and delivery industry in New York seems to play by its own set of rules, ignoring labor law and preying on those most vulnerable.  

In the report, a Brooklyn Wendy’s worker provides an example of how the system of exploitation works:

My manager clocks me out early at 1:15 am every day. I have to keep cleaning after I’m clocked out to close the store. Five of us work for about a half hour every night that we aren’t paid for, which adds up to about $80 a month for me since I make $7.25 per hour. It would mean a whole lot to me to have that $80 that Wendy’s doesn’t pay me. I could use that money to pay for school, food, or my metrocard.”

Other tactics being used are highlighted by labor writer Laura Clawson:

Some workers put in 60 or 80 hours a week, but are scheduled to work at different restaurants owned by the same franchisee and paid separately for each restaurant to avoid overtime. Some workers are told to arrive at one time, then made to sit and wait until the restaurant gets busy before they’re allowed to clock in. Paychecks are often late or bounce. These things are illegal.Delivery workers, who are typically paid the New York tipped worker minimum wage of $5.65 an hour, face another set of common cheats. They’re made to work non-delivery tasks so that they don’t have the chance to earn tips, or not reimbursed for the cell phone minutes they use in the course of deliveries or for gas or bike helmets required to do their jobs. If they’re robbed, they’re forced to pay the amount stolen. These things are also illegal.

Fast food companies are deflecting blame for what is happening onto franchise owners, inventing “miscommunication in the chain of command” and other classic managerial buck passes. This is akin to large contractors on construction projects claiming that their subcontractors, whom they signed on, are to blame when a worker dies or is misclassified. It’s a universal epidemic being proliferated by bad bosses:

When wage theft surfaces as a problem, the corporate management of the chains—McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Papa John’s, Domino’s—almost inevitably claim the brand isn’t responsible for the actions of franchise owners. The brand controls how the food is made, what the ingredients are, what uniforms the workers wear, basically everything top to bottom. But when it comes to workers being made to work off the clock or forced to pay for necessary work equipment or denied overtime pay, suddenly McDonald’s or Wendy’s just has no control over what goes on in those franchises. Yeah, right. If Domino’s or Papa John’s cared about obeying wage and hour laws remotely as much as they cared about the right number of pieces of pepperoni going on each pizza, things would be fixed. Not perfect, but the percent of workers not being paid for the work they did would would be a fraction of 84. And mind you, wage and hour laws are laws. The number of pieces of pepperoni on a pizza are corporate standards.

RELATED: Fast Food Forward Workers Surround a Domino’s Pizza in Brooklyn Following a Wrongful Termination

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