Hartford fast-food workers protest wage theft

HARTFORD, Conn. – Fast-food workers and community and faith leaders protested on Apr. 3 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. 

The action came 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 on Apr. 1, 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. 

“A corporation as big as Papa John’s has enough money to pay their employees without working off the clock,” said Jelani Burrell, who works at Papa John’s in Bloomfield, Connecticut. “No employee should have to work for a corporation and not be paid for their time. There are times when I have to continue working after I have been sent home or clocked out. It’s not fair that I have to continue to do my job without being compensated for the work that I’m doing.”

Holding signs that read, “Every nickel every dime we deserve our overtime,” Hartford fast-food workers and supporters protested in front of McDonald’s and Burger King demanding it and other fast food companies stop the illegal theft of workers’ pay. Workers told of fast food companies forcing them to work off the clock, and through breaks.

The first-ever national poll of fast food workers, conducted by Hart Research and released Apr. 1, 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. 

Since Nov. 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. 

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.