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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.
New York's fast food workers kicked off the series of one-day strikes we've seen in cities across the nation in recent months, and while the city hasn't seen another such walkout since April, the workers aren't done fighting. What's more, the New York Times' Michael Powell reports:
There is good news to be heard here. Workers who earn minimum wage realize their employers have no real hold on their tongues.

“I’m making the minimum wage plus 50 cents,” notes Ms. Simon. “I definitely can find another job.”

What's more, some workers are realizing that in addition to wanting more, or even needing more, there's another word to describe their situation as they're paid poverty wages and often cheated out of hours of pay they've earned:
Naquasia Legrand, a 22-year-old from Canarsie, Brooklyn, works at two KFCs. She washes dishes at one for $7.75 and mops floors at the other for $8. She says she must work four or five hours each week off the clock.

She needed to buy a MetroCard last week so she skipped lunch. She shakes her head. “I think I deserve to eat lunch.”

Deserve. That's a powerful word. It speaks to something beyond our individual desires, to something bigger. It's true, too. Workers deserve to be paid enough to pay the rent and feed their families. They deserve to be paid for the hours they work, not forced to work off the clock or any of the myriad other ways New York City fast food restaurants steal wages from workers. They deserve to be paid overtime if they work more than 40 hours a week, not paid straight time in two separate checks. And people who don't recognize that workers deserve these things? Well, there are things they, too, deserve. But nothing good.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Tue Jul 02, 2013 at 08:29 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Food workers make this world liveable (11+ / 0-)

    They deserve to be able to eat the food they cook or serve and to be able to focus on their jobs to do their best.

    This cannot happen if they are treated like this.

    Minimum wages have not increased let alone keep up with inflation, for decades.

    The greedy bloodsucking owners are scary.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 08:09:03 PM PDT

  •  This is the norm in the food (16+ / 0-)

    and bar industry. I've been bartending for 25 years and to find a place that pays a legal wage is rare. Most are under the table jobs for far less than the shitty minimum wage for tipped employees. Almost none have any benefits whatsoever. Yes, some of us make very good tips that affords us almost a living wage but the majority are lucky if they pull in minimum and then we do lots of work that isn't tip related. We have to scrub toilets, floors etc. for far less than a normal minimum wage because our employers deem everything to be tip related work. I get to work at 9am and clean the entire bar including toilets for the first hour I am there and we aren't even open so no tips are even possible. That's the norm.

    ~War is Peace~Freedom is Slavery~Ignorance is Strength~ George Orwell "1984"

    by Kristina40 on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 08:12:01 PM PDT

  •  I'm starting to believe that the most significant (12+ / 0-)

    ....difference between those who generally lean left and those whose tendencies are rightward is in the extent and degree (or possibly even the presence?) of simple human empathy.
    Lefties, no matter how far we may be in our lives, careers, etc, from slaving away at some sub-minimum-wage job, are more likely to realize, "there but for the grace of [whoever / whatever] could go I; I am so lucky to have had the opportunities I've had..." ...and to act / vote / spend / make life decisions accordingly.
    Righties, of course, are more likely to wonder if they should supersize their fries.

    •  almost forgot: since when do they have "dishes"... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LSophia

      ...at KFC?!

      •  Cooking stuff (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        LSophia, happymisanthropy

        Might not be many, but they will be large, greasy, and unwieldy, and need very hot water to clean.

        "If you defeat a thousand opponents, you still have a thousand opponents. If you change a thousand minds, you have a thousand allies"

        by Donkey Hotey on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 08:49:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  There are lots of utensils to clean in any (5+ / 0-)

        food service establishment.

        Although not technically plates or dinnerware everything needing cleaning is referred to as 'dishes'.

        In a poultry based environment great caution must be taken to prevent cross contamination between raw and prepared product.

        A properly trained and trusted 'dish washer' in a poultry based establishment is one of the most critical staff members. They are 'back of the house' and therefore don't share in the tips the servers receive.

        BTW, when's the last time you tipped a minimum wage worker at KFC or Wendy's?

        When's the last time you offered an encouraging word or complement to a minimum wage worker?

        They have feelings and needs just like everyone else. Why should minimum wage workers be made to labor for little to nothing and be treated like crap?

        What, sir, would the people of the earth be without woman? They would be scarce, sir, almighty scarce. Mark Twain

        by Gordon20024 on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 08:58:41 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Most of the fast food (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          happymisanthropy

          places have rules against accepting tips.

          ~War is Peace~Freedom is Slavery~Ignorance is Strength~ George Orwell "1984"

          by Kristina40 on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 09:04:58 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  You're saying a minimum wage worker would (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            nolagrl, Maverick80229

            refuse a $2 gratuity?

            That'd almost pay for a half gallon of milk for his/her kids.

            There are rules for minimum wage earners, yet none for the Wall Street bastards? There are 'rules' against what president cheney did, too.

            Every time I'm impressed with the service I receive from a low wage earner I give them recommendation to higher scale employers.

            Dealing with the cheepass people who frequent fast food places should earn the employees some kinda service medal if not bonus pay.

            I don't think I'd last more than 30 minutes at a WalMart checkout station.

            What, sir, would the people of the earth be without woman? They would be scarce, sir, almighty scarce. Mark Twain

            by Gordon20024 on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 10:01:12 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  This is correct. (0+ / 0-)

            Fast-food places have policies in place prohibiting their employees from accepting tips. On rare, rare occasions, franchises will set tip jars on the front counter (I've seen it here in MI) but generally, the restaurant just pockets those instead of the employees.

            If these stores were audited by corporate, they would likely find them in violation of their franchise agreement. What penalties exist as a result of that, I don't know, but I do know that McDonalds as an example explicitly forbids tips and employees who accept them usually lose their jobs very quickly.

            (-8.88, -5.44) - "A decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilization." -- Samuel Johnson, Boswell: The Life of Johnson

            by CryingLiberty on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 10:11:03 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  That, would be the Salmonella, Sir. (8+ / 0-)

          And how right you are.  

          And BTW-
          Let's not any of us forget,

          To pretend that the chicken, that found it's way to KFC from Tyson-

          Was plucked, de-boned and quartered by someone with,

          Very dark skin.  Holding their urine, inside a painful bladder for hours on end, while on their feet.  And speaks Spanish as a primary language.  Making less than minimum wage.

          Right here.  In America.

          Sorry folks.  We're all so right to care deeply about fast food workers here in the US.  

          But let's be honest, it only happens because we see them in front of us.  What about those we can't see?  The slaves at Tyson.  The slaves at IBP, and the slaves at Palermo's.

          We just don't see them.  But we should all know they are there, suffering as much if not MORE because they work behind closed doors, feeding us but barely able to feed themselves.

          We're all suspected terrorists.

          by Boberto on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 09:58:20 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I certainly hope (0+ / 0-)

          you're not suggesting we should be forced to EAT at such places!  I tip well at the sushi restaurants I frequent ;)

    •  No, it's because you are (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      glitterscale

      superior and smarter and more worthy. Or that's what the sociopaths tell us.

      ~War is Peace~Freedom is Slavery~Ignorance is Strength~ George Orwell "1984"

      by Kristina40 on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 08:28:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Big city newspapers used to have a Labor section (9+ / 0-)

    now, it's only Business. Actually, the whole paper.

    One of the thing I highly approve of, about DailyKos.

    This Rover crossed over.. Willie Nelson, written by Dorothy Fields

    by Karl Rover on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 08:16:09 PM PDT

  •  New ways to pay workers (10+ / 0-)

    Recently someone posted a diary about workers in minimum wage jobs having to take a sort of pre-paid/ATM type card instead of a paycheck or direct deposit.  

    These cards apparently have fees for every possible kind of transaction from using it to buy things to taking out cash etc.

    So a chunk of someone's pay is going right back into a big corporation - My God nickel and diming the already working poor, they have no shame.  

    Uninsured cancer survivor

    by ArtemisBSG on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 08:22:22 PM PDT

    •  Ah, company scrip (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LSophia, nolagrl, J M F, VPofKarma

      Wouldn't be at all surprised if there were an under-the-table kickback arrangement between the employer and the bank issuing these cards.

      We really are slipping back into the Gilded Age, aren't we?

    •  It's typically optional... (0+ / 0-)

      ...and beneficial to the worker to be paid that way (lots of low wage workers don't have bank accounts and otherwise need to pay check cashing fees). A debit card is very convenient.

      It's when employers refuse to pay by check that it crosses into illegality.

      (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
      Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

      by Sparhawk on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 10:11:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's happened to me. (0+ / 0-)

        And I'm a Licensed Professional.

        The employer had no option for issuing a paper check.  Direct deposit or Debit card.  All in violation of NY law.

        And guess what?

        NY couldn't have cared any fucking less.  Just like they don't care about wage theft.

        The New York State Legislature has been successfully captured as a regulatory entity.  They will only go after small fry, mom and pop operations.  Because those people, don't bribe the legislative body of New York.  They can't afford it.

        Here's my proof

        Scroll through the years and years of New York labor actions. I DEFY YOU, to find a McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy's, Darden, Home Depot or ANY Big Name Corporation.

        They aren't there, because they have BOUGHT AND PAID for the right to steal from workers.

        The Mom and Pop small businesses, get held up at gunpoint and no one fucking blinks.

        The other category you'll see there, are the labor unions but in very small numbers but ONLY because the labor unions are the ones who force the issue before the board.

        Hey, New York Department of Labor!!!  Yeah, I'm shouting at you motherfuckers!  

        YOU ARE FUCKING USELESS!!!!!!!!  Why do you even show up for work in the morning?  Just stay in bed and pretend to work from home.

        We're all suspected terrorists.

        by Boberto on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 10:39:44 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  If you want to be able to afford to eat... (5+ / 0-)

    First thing you need to do is save money to eat, by not eating.

    No, that's not snark, that's the entrepreneur fan's logic.

    I don't blame Christians. I blame Stupid. Which sadly is a much more popular religion these days.

    by detroitmechworks on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 08:24:17 PM PDT

  •  Good for them! n/t (0+ / 0-)

    Every woman is the boss of what goes into her vagina, and what comes out. Not you, not me, not the GOP.

    by nominalize on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 08:29:44 PM PDT

  •  Re (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Donkey Hotey, VPofKarma

    State governments need to require anti-wage theft training for hourly employees. If employers were required to show a state-produced video to all hourly workers and supervisors upon hiring (and maybe a yearly refresher), wage theft would become much less of a problem.

    The video should contain examples of permissible and legally impermissible employer behavior.

    Employers would be much less likely to institute casual wage theft in the face of employee training that specifically identifies such activity.

    (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
    Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

    by Sparhawk on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 08:32:24 PM PDT

    •  Good luck with that. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nolagrl, Boberto, glitterscale

      Do you really think the Chamber of Commerce is going to allow that? Besides. In right to work states you basically have no rights anyway. Why give the drooling fools hope?

      ~War is Peace~Freedom is Slavery~Ignorance is Strength~ George Orwell "1984"

      by Kristina40 on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 08:45:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Re (0+ / 0-)

        Yeah, the Chamber wouldn't like it, but they don't like minimum wage hikes either, and those happen with some regularity.

        And in right to work states employers are just as bound to the law as in other states. Wage theft is a crime of plausible deniability. Mandated training removes the plausibility.

        (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
        Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

        by Sparhawk on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 08:52:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  In Norway, the unions send "summer patrols" (0+ / 0-)

        to talk to young people with summer jobs (cafe, gas station, ferry etc.).  They talk about their rights.  This is routine and nearly all employers allow these conversations to happen at work on "company time".  The union people can, of course, be asked to come back at a less busy time; that's routine, too.  

        It made the papers about a month ago when a large restaurant in the center of Bergen refused to let this happen.  The manager when interviewed said that his temporaries could talk with anyone they wish, but on their own time.

        A great many people have said that they will never frequent that restaurant again.  It will do fine now in the tourist season.  It may discover that it's lost business when the cold rains come.

        The Republicans are defunding, not defending, America.

        by DSPS owl on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 03:50:24 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  The unemployed pool is so deep the employer (4+ / 0-)

      would simply replace the complainer with someone willing to work in his/her place and not gripe.

      And, where's the enforcement of the existing laws coming from? The republicans have blocked appointments of any oversight positions the administration has put forth.

      They clearly don't want this regulated, unlike your bedroom or vejayjay.

      What, sir, would the people of the earth be without woman? They would be scarce, sir, almighty scarce. Mark Twain

      by Gordon20024 on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 09:10:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Doesn't matter (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        VPofKarma

        Wage theft is a plausible deniability crime.

        Employers will be much less likely to do it if their employees are properly trained for how to look for it.

        The point here isn't to eliminate wage theft: it's to reduce the phenomena to a small one instead of a big one.

        (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
        Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

        by Sparhawk on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 09:26:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Start report wage theft as common crime. (5+ / 0-)

    Go to a police station and file a police report that your wages have been stolen.

    Sign the petition to demand a law-abiding Supreme Court. (We're 120 signatures! Keep on chuggin!)

    by Troubadour on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 08:52:22 PM PDT

  •  Can't build a middle class (4+ / 0-)

    Without middle class wages.

  •  Ban the (3+ / 0-)

    EVERY employee should be guaranteed at least the minimum wage, regardless of whether they get tips or not.

    Tips are not always RELIABLE.

    I drove for a limousine company for a few years.

    Yes, there were passengers who gave me tips.

    But there were also some who did NOT.

    Nobody who has rent to pay or kids to raise should have to rely on tips.

    Where are our congressional liberal Democrats when we need them ? Why haven't they proposed this already ?

    If a member of Congress HAS proposed it, I don't recall ever hearing about it.

    And yes, I know it won't pass the idiot GOP controlled House now.

    But it is an excellent weapon to use against them at election times.

    That is, if we can find Democrats with the balls to hammer away about it.

    "Love Is Why We're Here"

    by Paniolo Joe on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 09:15:19 PM PDT

  •  Why isn't there some enforcement action ... (0+ / 0-)

    and/or legal-aid assisted lawsuits?

    The minimum wage argument can be dragged out endlessly by reluctant legislators, so I don't hold out much hope for action in the current political environment.

    But wage theft and requiring work off-the-clock is different -- it's a blatant violation of current law, isn't it?  I'm not surprised to hear of that kind of abuse in some other states, but in New York?  Where's the state attorney general, the local prosecutors, the local legal-aid organizations?

  •  Nothing new under the sun (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VPofKarma, happymisanthropy

    In 1979 at the age of 18 I spent one summer working at McDonald's. They were then still using old fashioned time cards and a punch clock. On my first day a co-worker advised me to keep a strict eye on the total hours on my time card each pay period, because I would be shortchanged on my paycheck. I didn't believe her but I kept a written record of my hours anyway.

    Sure enough, every single paycheck I received was a little bit short of what it should have been. And every pay day I had to bring it to the attention of management and request another check to make up the difference.

    Apparently, shortchanging employee pay was standard operating procedure. Most of my co-workers didn't keep track of their hours, and McDonald's profited from their inattention.

    Just before I quit, McDonald's switched to using a new time card system. The cards had a magnetic strip where punch-in and punch-out times were recorded. So it was impossible to see the times on the card, and therefore impossible to monitor whether the paychecks were short or not.

    For a naive young guy like me it was a shocking but ultimately valuable lesson in the dangers of corporate ethics.

  •  Wow, do we get to make a list of (0+ / 0-)

    the not good things they deserve?  Help me folks, but how about starting with people throwing dirt in their suburban swimming pools?  Or being tied up and forced to listen to the critiques of their workers?  (or does that sound too Maoist?)

  •  "Deserve to have lunch" (0+ / 0-)

    I don't understand that comment.

    If I read the article correctly, she took her lunch break to run an errand.

    How do you prevent that?
    Why would you prevent that?

    Seems to me that workers should have the freedom to use their own time as they see fit -- including the abilityt to take care of personal errands.

    The more salient comment from the story is this:

    “I’m making the minimum wage plus 50 cents,” notes Ms. Simon. “I definitely can find another job.”
    That's the sound of somebody understanding that she has more power than she realized.  At minimum wage, an employer's hold on you becomes weak because there are other minimum wage jobs.  If enough workers refuse to be mistreated, employers will have little choice: stop mistreating the workers or lose money because you can't staff your business.

    Unions help.

    LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

    by dinotrac on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 04:07:48 AM PDT

  •  My granddaughter told me... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VPofKarma

    just last week that she got a check for around $240 from Starbucks. She either worked till 3:00am or started work at 3:00am and was to get 'lunch' money for working those hours.

    She filed a complaint about never receiving this and after the investigation it turns out her manager wasn't following the company's rule.

    With all the money that Starbucks makes it's a shame to cheat the ones making the coffee out of a few bucks a day.

  •  Noone has a good fast food job experience (0+ / 0-)

    When I worked at fast food, I was treated with respect much of the time. Unfortunately management turnover is high, so just when you get a manager that is good, they move on. One time I had to clean up my own spill on my lunch break and I barely had time to eat the remainder of the lunch break that I was off the clock. I had to wolf it down.

    There is good news to be heard here. Workers who earn minimum wage realize their employers have no real hold on their tongues.
    “I’m making the minimum wage plus 50 cents,” notes Ms. Simon. “I definitely can find another job.”
    Not everyone is in the position to find another job. I didn't have a car at the time, and getting a job at another location was not an option. I'm glad some of the fast food workers are standing up for themselves, but it's not a possibility for everybody.

    This is a useful guide. One of my favorite restaurants is on this guide.

    http://rocunited.org/...

  •  I think people are indifferent (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VPofKarma

    because it seems like these workers should spine up and start pushing back.

    They're what keeps the money rolling in. Without their goodwill, there will be heck to pay and bandaids in the enchiladas.

    If you're working a minwage job with a whole family to support you set the trap yourself before stepping into it.

    Don't have kids if you can't afford kids. Even Mexico knows that. There are billboards saying that very thing; astonishing in a Catholic country, but true nonetheless.

    THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN CONTROL PEOPLE IS TO LIE TO THEM. You can write that down in your book in great big letters. -- L. Ron Hubbard Technique 88

    by xenubarb on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 11:47:47 AM PDT

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