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84% of NYC fast food workers reported at least one instance of wage theft, 66% reported at least two, 45% reported at least three, 30% reported at least four wage theft violations.
A staggering 84 percent of New York City fast food workers reports having been a victim of wage theft, a new survey finds. Things are even worse for fast food delivery workers—100 percent of them report wage theft. The New York State attorney general is reportedly investigating pay practices in New York City fast food, and the new survey and report from Fast Food Forward offer a detailed picture of what that investigation might find.

Employers cheat workers out of wages in a number of ways, forcing them to work off the clock before or after their shifts or during break times, not paying overtime when workers work more than 40 hours a week, making delivery workers pay for equipment they're required to have to do their jobs, or just plain not paying the minimum wage. For instance, Shaquenna Davis, who works at a Wendy's in Brooklyn, is quoted in the report saying:

"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."
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.

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.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Thu May 16, 2013 at 10:46 AM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  This is the reason to stop eating (7+ / 0-)

    fast food. Too bad for poor people it's pretty much the only option when eating out.

    SOS - Save Our Sigs!

    by blueoregon on Thu May 16, 2013 at 10:55:14 AM PDT

  •  When I used to bartend (8+ / 0-)

    I was required to come in early and set up my station (fruit, ice etc) and at the end of the night - clean everything.....all this was fine but I only got paid from 10PM to 3AM - the 30 minutes before and usually 1 hour later were "off the clock"  it was the bar rules.  Mind you - I was making good tips so the little pay we did get was peanuts - the bar knew this and no one ever rocked the cart because we didn't want to lose those retrospect - kind of a shitty move.

    The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government. - Thomas Jefferson

    by ctexrep on Thu May 16, 2013 at 11:03:44 AM PDT

  •  And soon, no more overtime worries at all! nt (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FarWestGirl, Eyesbright
  •  Yep and unless there is a labor lawyer fairy (4+ / 0-)

    Granting the billable hours and small claims court costs to these on the edge of survival workers there is nothing they can do to stop these employers from stealing from them.

    BTW all these places have security cameras so the claims are a slam dunk. But that is beside the point if you can't even afford court costs.

  •  the battle these fast food workers are fighting (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    is truly an uphill struggle. the ones striking.

    they're not only facing a government that plays lapdog to corporate interests, but they're in a dogshit economy where there's plenty of people who are no longer qualifying for unemployment and making the desperate choice of working for absurdly low wages.

    at some point, something's got to give. society can't go on this unequally, not in our country, it just can't.

    Deficits don't matter, jobs do.

    by aguadito on Thu May 16, 2013 at 02:32:02 PM PDT

  •  i wonder if RICO applies (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    1Nic Ven, trimguy, JerryNA, Lujane

    treat it not as a technical violation but part of a fraud scheme

  •  And some people claim that slavery could not (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    salmo, JerryNA, AaronInSanDiego, laurnj, Lujane

    happen in this day and age...and here we have a clear example of it.

    "Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities" Voltaire.

    by JWK on Sat May 18, 2013 at 04:50:34 PM PDT

    •  Captive Labor (0+ / 0-)

      Until the worker is physically captive 100% of the time, subject to any whim of their owner, calling abusive work conditions "slavery" merely disrespects actual slaves and discredits arguments.

      "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

      by DocGonzo on Sun May 19, 2013 at 07:23:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I would like to know how many (5+ / 0-)

    times a worker off the clock was injured. If you aren't on the clock, you don't qualify for worker's comp. We were always told to be careful doing anything as we were walking out. (Probably could vary among the states.)

    So going down the hall, a patient falls in a room you are walking by. Family comes out to get help. Say 'No, I'm off the clock."  ?

    "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

    by Ginny in CO on Sat May 18, 2013 at 04:54:40 PM PDT

  •  Here in Michigan (6+ / 0-)

    my niece works for minimum wage at a locally owned party store/pizza place. I watch her baby because she cannot afford to pay a sitter.

    Her hours today were 9 to 3. She had to be there at 8:30 to make sure things were stocked, clean, etc. She left there after 3:30 because she had to make sauce and the other side work necessary for the night shift. Add travel time and besides the wage theft, she in other circumstances would have to pay for 8 hours of child care when she is getting paid for 6.

  •  Where's the Food Network Program? (8+ / 0-)

    Where's are the secret cameras on this? Where's the guy busting some business owner's chops because he's not paying what the worker earned?

    Bet's we never see this on any network TV.

  •  I don't understand why there are criminal (7+ / 0-)

    penalties for shoplifing, but not wage theft (From a moral perspective, not a who-has-power perspective).

  •  The local KFC franchise owner (7+ / 0-)

    closed all KFCs. He blamed Obamacare.

    On the feedback in the local papers, several people echoed this.

    Then reality set it. People said that they refused to go to his stores because he the staff was poorly-trained, had a bad attitude, and service was terrible.

    No other chain suffered from 'Obamacare'. In fact, chains that paid their staff more than his have thrived.

    At least here locally, customers will only go to place where the staff gives damn about there job.

  •  For those of us who own stock in these companies, (5+ / 0-)

    we have an obligation to let them know, and show them, that these practices are NOT good for business.  I'm lucky enough to be able to own a chunk of McDonald's stock.  I've sent them a letter letting them know who I am and that if they can't or won't put pressure on franchise owners on this issue (and the issue of crappy wages in general), I will be selling their stock and letting everyone I know know about it and why I did it.  

    My broker recently told me to invest in Yum Brands (Taco Bell, KFC) and I flat-out refused.  Instead I bought Costco, and I told him why.  Those of us lucky enough to be able to afford to buy stock in this crappy economy need to do our part, to put our money where our mouths are and let these companies (and brokers who sell stock in these companies) know that wage theft is not acceptable, and that paying your workers so poorly that they need frigging food stamps to feed their families is NOT good business in any way, shape, or form.

  •  I wonder if I have a lawsuit? Opinions? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    roadbear, laurnj, Lujane

    There was a lawsuit against Walmart (which Walmart lost and had to pay) --

    In effect, Walmart told employees, “We expect you to show up 30 minutes before your scheduled start time. You change into your frock, you tell your supervisor you’re here to get your work orders, you get your pallets ready to unload, and then you clock in.”

    The court said, in effect, if employees are required to arrive at work 30 minutes before they’re scheduled, then Walmart has to pay them for those 30 minutes.


    Here’s my situation:

    Without giving a lot of details, I work in a call center. We take telephone calls from people. I log in, work for about two hours, have a 15-minute break (to go to the bathroom or eat a snack or smoke a cigarette), work about two hours (30 minute lunch), then two hours (another 15 minute break), two more hours and I’m done. They aren’t actually two-hour work periods. They range from 1.5 hours to 2.5 hours. The two 15-minute breaks are paid, the 30 minutes for lunch is unpaid.

    I have two breaks, plus lunch. So I log in four times a day. The computers are old (Microsoft XP) so it takes at least three minutes to log in to the big computer. According to the rules, my time card is based on when my computer is connected to the main computer. So I don’t have a 15-minute break. I have a 12-minute break. I don’t have a 30-minute lunch, I have a 27-minute lunch.

    It’s like they subtract three minutes every time I log in. I am sitting at the computer, ready to work, I log in with my password and three minutes later I’m connected to the big computer. I don’t get paid for those three minutes. Times four. 12 minutes a day. Not as bad as the Walmart example, but still, isn’t it unfair?

    Do you think I have a legal case?

    "Stupid just can't keep its mouth shut." -- SweetAuntFanny's grandmother.

    by Dbug on Sat May 18, 2013 at 07:53:26 PM PDT

    •  Keep a record.... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dbug, laurnj, roadbear, Lujane

      Write down your times.
      I worked at a place with the computers as our time clocks.  Major rip off of 'on the click' work time.
      We had to log into the computers to be ready to work as the clock struck 9 (or whatever o'clock).  Some of us had very slow computers and had to start 5 to 10 minutes before we were officially 'on the clock'.
      Lunch was a nightmare.  We had to log off, and then go through a mini start-up to get back on.  A 30 minute lunch was more like a 24 minute lunch.
      I'm not mentioning the breaks, because it was the same.  A 15 minute break was usually 11 or 12 minutes.
      In any week, I gave the company over an hour of uncompensated pay, jumping through computer hoops to satisfy their pursuit of strict adherence to the 'clock'.
      I went to HR to see if we could do something about the disparity of hours paid vs. hours actually worked (logging on etc) and was told by the HR person the company had to manage us and this was the way they had chosen.  
      At some later point someone must have said something to somebody else who mattered (or the labor board for all I know), because we got actual time clocks (which I do not care for, but compared to the computer start-up nightmare it's far superior).
      This isn't ideal, but as far as getting paid for hours worked it's far fairer.

      I think, therefore I am........................... Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose....AKA Engine Nighthawk - don't even ask!

      by Lilyvt on Sat May 18, 2013 at 08:53:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Have You Asked for Changes? (0+ / 0-)

      Most legal challenges to any business relationship require that you've exhausted normal communications first. Have you tried to get your office to address the unfair delays? Any record of your attempts and their responses?

      "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

      by DocGonzo on Sun May 19, 2013 at 07:26:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is widespread in the food service industry (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    roadbear, Lujane, ebohlman

    Gabriel Thompson's book Working in the Shadows had a section on his experiences in restaurants in NYC.  Shaving hours off workers' paychecks was so routine, he couldn't figure out why they bothered to have employees punch a clock.

    I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death; I am not on his payroll. - Edna St. Vincent Millay

    by Tara the Antisocial Social Worker on Sat May 18, 2013 at 07:54:18 PM PDT

  •  Well my son used to work for McDonalds... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    laurnj, roadbear, Lujane

    My son was  told he couldn't use the restroom between 11 AM - 1  PM or 3 PM- 7 PM. Well he finally got tired of it and complained to IOSHA ,it was finally stopped for everybody.

      I had a co-worker who's daughter worked at a gas station-convienience store and cashed a check according to her employers procedures ,well it bounced and the employer held her paycheck till it was paid back but she told him to shove it. The young girl later complained to the US Division of Labor who stated you have to be paid $7.25 an hour no matter what and she got her money back. It was also referred to the Kentucky Division of Labor who have even stronger regulations and sent a strongly owrded letter to the employer to stop this sort of behavior.

  •  Back to PB and J's for awhile. (0+ / 0-)

    Since I don't cook (though I can cook), I guess it's back to PB and J's and black coffee. I was thinner back when I avoided fast food restaurants, too.

  •  Welcome to the United Corporate States of America (0+ / 0-)

    Will the voters wake up in time to reverse this trend?

    Only after we wake up and just stop feeding the beast.

    Psst!!!......Mittens you are more of a poor loser than I thought.

    by wbishop3 on Sun May 19, 2013 at 05:41:38 AM PDT

  •  Send Somebody to Jail (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Oh Mary Oh

    The New York State attorney general is reportedly investigating pay practices in New York City fast food [...]

    These things are illegal.

    If I stole from my employer and the NY AG caught me, I'd go to jail. AG Schneiderman should send to jail some of the people stealing from their workers.

    Or admit that we live in a relatively comfortable fascism.

    "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

    by DocGonzo on Sun May 19, 2013 at 07:17:16 AM PDT

  •  Free Work is Standard (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Oh Mary Oh

    The wage theft onsite described in these stories is worse, but commuting is also free work. In a fair labor market, commuting would be paid work, even if not at the same rate as more productive (eg. onsite) work. That would incent workers to live closer to work, which would more properly monetize the efficiency of short commutes.

    Instead, free commuting is yet another subsidy to the boss, and to the boss economy of sprawl in general.

    "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

    by DocGonzo on Sun May 19, 2013 at 07:21:16 AM PDT

  •  I used to be very confident in the sanctity of (0+ / 0-)

    our EEO laws and other labor laws.

    Not anymore.

    Ayn is the bane! Take the Antidote To Ayn Rand and call your doctor in the morning: You have health insurance now! @floydbluealdus1

    by Floyd Blue on Mon May 20, 2013 at 07:45:14 AM PDT

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