WILMINGTON– Fast-food workers and community and faith leaders protested Thursday 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 comes 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 Tuesday, 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.
“I can barely survive on what Taco Bell and KFC pays,” said Jose Blas, a father of three who cooks at KFC and Taco Bell and earns just $8.00 an hour. “This poll shows that fast food workers are not only struggling to make it on the minimum wage, many aren’t even being paid for the hours that they work. That’s why we are all joining together to form a union because together we can fight to end these illegal practices.”
Holding signs that read “A penny earned, should be a penny paid!” Wilmington fast-food workers and supporters protested in front of McDonald’s demanding it and other fast-food companies stop the illegal theft of workers’ pay. Fast food workers and community leaders then “arrested” “Ronald McDonald,” telling him, “Where you’re going, they don’t serve happy meals.”
The first-ever national poll of fast-food workers, conducted by Hart Research and released Tuesday, 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.
Concern over fast food low wages and wage theft has reached a fever pitch. Last week, New Castle County Council passed a resolution in support of local fast food workers who are organizing for better wages and a union.
“This rampant wage theft is a direct result of the way McDonald’s and other fast-food companies operate their businesses,” said Darlene Battle, Executive Director of DACA. “They expect a certain level of service and profits and the only way they can make that happen is if there isn’t enough money on the table to pay workers for every hour they work. That’s no way to run a business, and it’s no way to build a strong economy.”
“These practices are so offensive because they do not give employees their due. These practices are coupled with an environment that disempowers employees,” said Jenna Fenstermacher of the Delaware Chapter of Americans for Democratic action. “When I worked in fast food, I was warned that if you say ‘union’ in this store, you will be fired. I witnessed these practices first hand.”
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.
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.
Here in Wilmington elected officials Councilwoman Sherry Dorsey Walker, Councilman Michael Brown, Councilman Darius Brown, New Castle County Councilman David Tackett and County Executive Tom Gordon pledged to stand with the workers and hold McDonald’s and other fast-food companies accountable.
“We already know that fast-food workers can barely get by on the low wages they are paid, often forcing them to reply on public assistance to squeeze by,” said Councilwoman Sherry Dorsey Walker. “So to add to their struggles by stealing their pay is unconscionable and I’m committed to making sure we do everything we can here in Wilmington to put an end to this illegal practice.”
“Poverty is real in the state of Wilmington. It is our responsibility to address poverty for working families like those who work here at McDonald’s,” said Councilman Darius Brown. “We need to teach a lesson to corporate America that our children are taught every day: share.”
“Fast food companies are not struggling for their existence. This is all about greed and how much more they can make for the top one percent, which is destroying this country,” said New Castle County Executive, Tom Gordon. “Standing with fast food workers will make our state strong. We can affect change here in DE.”
DE Fast Food Forward is a movement of DE fast food workers, and supporters from faith, labor and community groups, who are fighting to raise wages and gain rights at work. It is part of the national movement of low-wage workers fighting for a better future.