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Unions Protest McDonald's Alleged Wage Theft of Workers' Pay


NEW YORK - Fast-food union organizers are once again protesting in cities across the nation. This time their focus has shifted away from higher pay for workers to “theft of wages” by fast-food corporations.

Their main target on Tuesday was McDonald’s Corporation.

While protesters gathered yesterday at the restaurants of the world’s largest hamburger chain, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced its settlement with one multi-unit franchisee. Richard Cisneros, owner of seven McDonald’s in Manhattan agreed to pay half-a-million dollars to workers for stealing their wages. 

The franchise owner allegedly failed to pay some of his employees at his seven restaurants for work they were owed, requiring many to work off-the-clock. He also refused to pay them legally required laundry costs for uniforms.

The issue of ‘wage theft’ came about after class action lawsuits were filed against McDonald’s by workers in various states. 

Class action lawsuits claiming Alleged Wage Theft

Blue MauMau reported earlier this month that fast-food employees in several states including California, New York and Michigan, filed class action lawsuits against McDonald’s Corporation and various company entities in federal and state courts. While the workers did not name any franchisees in the complaints, they accuse the world’s largest hamburger chain of being vicariously liable because of its strict employment policies and practices, showing its control over the system.

The lawsuits state that through the company’s methods and schemes in paying store workers, they are stealing wages by making them work off the clock, altering their time sheets, and not paying them for uniform maintenance.

Attorneys for the workers are hoping the courts will grant them class action status to allow a vast majority of workers to join in the litigation.

Media coverage of protests stretches across the country

Numerous news reports highlighted the protest activity in major cities, from Los Angeles to New York.

ABC News reported that the actions are part of an ongoing campaign by union organizers to build public support for higher wages. It stated,

The Service Employees International Union has been providing financial and organizational support for the push, which began in late 2012. A series of protests since then calling for pay of $15 an hour has captured national media attention and served as a backdrop for President Obama's push to raise the federal minimum wage.

Tuesday, the organizers planned to stage protests in 30 cities including New York, Boston and Los Angeles, but it wasn’t clear how significant the turnout would be at certain locations. Roughly 50 protesters streamed into a McDonald’s across the street from the Empire State Building around noon, surprising customers eating lunch. ABC reported that they chanted for several minutes before the police kicked them out.

Once outside, the group began speaking before a large gathering of TV cameras and other media. A New York City public advocate, Tish James, joined in and voiced her support while standing next to a protester dressed as a villainous Ronald McDonald, ABC reported.

“It’s hard enough for fast-food workers to survive in this economy,” James exclaimed. She also stated she would introduce legislation to establish a hotline to report “wage theft.”

It was not clear how many protesters were fast-food workers, rather than campaign organizers or supporters.

In Los Angeles, some 50 protesters showed up at a McDonald’s for a demonstration that lasted about a half-hour. The group held a brief press conference outside before marching inside with banners and signs. Those demonstrators were not asked to leave, ABC stated.

The workers participating were referred to attorneys by the organizers of the fast-food protests.

ABC News said a representative of the Oak Brook, Illinois company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the protests earlier in the day. McDonald’s Corp. later said it planned to investigate the allegations and take necessary actions.

One earlier report stated that protest organizers are getting financial and organizational support not only from the Service Employees International Union, but also from local Democratic lawmakers and community leaders.

Group’s opposition to unionized fast-food protests

Not everyone outside of McDonald’s and the franchisor community are supporting the protests by union organizers.

Roc, a website that claims to reveal the truth about the labor union front group Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) told Blue MauMau there was more media nationwide at yesterday’s events covering the protests than actual protesters.

Mike Paranzino, communications director of ROC Exposed said in Miami and Tampa the small protests were a sign that big labor’s PR campaign against restaurants is flagging.

“About 24 protesters were at a Tampa restaurant, and at a Miami protest that included the Miami chapter of New York-based Restaurant Opportunities Center, the supporters' video showed about just 15 people. And most of them were not even workers at the restaurant being protested.”

Paranzino said even in New York, America’s most populous city, there were only 50 people. “In Detroit, protesters reportedly shut down a drive-thru lane, the kind of antics that violate federal labor law when done by an official union.  Ditto in New York, where protesters entered the restaurant.  That is one reason Service Employees International Union directs these protests through Fast Food Forward, ROC and other "worker centers."

In the future, Paranzino said the media should take a more skeptical eye to these union media stunts, and make them produce before they waste their time and energy promoting Big Labor's agenda.

News Report:  Fast-Food Protests Shift Focus to’Wage Theft - ABC

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About Janet Sparks

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Janet Sparks is the former publisher of the Continental Franchise Review, an industry newsletter that covered the franchise community for over 30 years. She has also been a columnist for a leading franchise magazine for the past 13 years. Today she is an independent journalist who engages in investigative reporting, tackling complex issues that impact the franchise industry.

Janet can be reached at or at 303-799-7398.