How Fast Food Franchises Cheat Workers Out of a Just Wage
Workers in fast food restaurant franchises are not only paid the minimum wage. More than a few of the approximately 4 million franchise workers employed in restaurants are being shortchanged out of wages by their employers, who do not pay them overtime or who siphon off hours of overtime (adding up almost to a thousand dollars, in some cases) from computer systems.
Workers at Papa John’s are expected to start working before clocking in and, after clocking out, to perform tasks such as cleaning, says Colorlines. For a worker who makes the minimum wage of $7.35, and is “supposed” to work two to four hours a week without pay, that adds up to a loss of about $90 a month and nearly $1,000 a year.
The U.S. Department of Labor had previously found that 40 percent of fast food outposts in the country “fail to consistently pay their employees a minimum wage or overtime.” More recently, the New York Attorney General found that 84 percent of fast food workers said they were routinely forced to work overtime without pay and to pay for fuel when making deliveries.
Workers don’t feel they have any choice but to comply with this unfair system. “The thing is, you know that you should be paid, but to show that you want to keep your job, that you are a good worker, that you are a team player, you do it,” Olivia Roffle, who used to work at a Papa John’s outlet in St. Louis, Missouri, said to Colorlines.
A worker at a Burger King in Kansas City, Missouri, says that her manager routinely changed the number of hours she had worked in the computer system so she would not be paid overtime.
The Evils of the Franchising System
As you might expect, companies insist that “rogue” managers are behind such wage theft. But the franchising system, in which franchise owners pay fees to companies like Burger King and are required to follow strict rules and standards, could be the real source of the problem. The fees for training and sometimes rent (if a corporation like McDonalds owns the real estate an outlet is located in) are fixed. To make a profit, a franchise owner has to rely on sales, which can be unpredictable.
The one area that companies do not place a mandate on is hiring, wages and hours, as Colorlines points out. These are left to the franchise operators. Indeed, a clause in their contracts carefully absolves companies from responsibility about wages and labor practices. When questioned about how workers at franchises are paid, the franchises can (and do) say that it is the U. S. Department of Labor’s job to enforce wage and payment issues, not the parent company.
Fast food workers have made some small gains in fighting for fair labor practices. Because Domino’s was apparently heavily involved in the operations of its franchises in New York, that company has been named as a defendant in a class action suit filed by delivery workers. In six cities, workers at fast food franchises have held one-day walkouts.
Their protest is largely symbolic so far but its importance can’t be denied. Business Week reports that restaurant franchises are hiring. About 14,000 positions in franchise restaurants were created in May (out of 19,000 franchise positions total). But franchises are hiring more part-time workers, possibly in a effort to dodge Obamacare’s requirement to provide healthcare for full-time workers. Again, workers are getting shortchanged so someone else can add to their profits.
What’s too clear is that fast food restaurants not only serve up unhealthy (and potentially addictive) food. They’re also, behind the scenes, making people serve up that food while working under unfair conditions.
Photo via The Consumerist