Following a legal settlement in the first of a series of class-action lawsuits charging fast food giant McDonald’s with mass wage-theft across the country, New York State officials announced on Tuesday plans to establish of a wage theft hotline, where fast food workers can anonymously blow the whistle on abusive employers.
“It’s hard enough for low-wage workers to survive in this economy,” said Tish James, the New York City public advocate at a demonstration outside a McDonald’s restaurant in midtown Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon. “It’s practically impossible to do so when wages are being stolen.” James announced that her office is proposing legislation to establish the hotline for “workers who are being victimized by major corporations who are making billions off their hard work.”
The hotline would be part of a larger legislative proposal to crack down on wage theft and other labor abuses at fast food chains in the state. The proposal includes: an expansion of city agencies’ authority to investigate wage theft; City Council hearings with McDonald’s’ CEO and franchise owners and city council members; and pressure on McDonald’s Corporation to establish universal rules forcing its franchise owners to follow the law.
The move follows a settlement between New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman and the owner of seven McDonald’s franchises in New York state on Tuesday, forcing the owner to pay roughly $500,000 to 1,600 fast-food workers for stolen wages.
The lawsuit comes along with several others that stretch across three states announced in tandem last week. Many will become class-action lawsuits and could incorporate over 30,000 employees. Workers are calling on McDonald’s Corporation as well as franchise owners to fork over wages that were systematically cut out of paychecks through practices such as tampering with time-sheets and withholding overtime pay.
At Tuesday’s demonstration, which was organized in support of the lawsuit, workers and protesters filed into a McDonald’s chanting “shame on you” and “every nickel, every dime, we deserve our overtime.”
A protester dressed as Ronald McDonald was put in faux handcuffs as the demonstration continued outside.
At the rally, McDonald’s worker Franklin La Paz told the crowd he has experienced extensive wage theft:
My name is Franklin. I am 25 years old and work just over 30 hours a week at McDonald’s. I work in McDonald’s to make ends meet, but I’ve also been a victim of wage theft, and I’m here today because it has to stop. Like Jennifer, I’ve never been paid the state-mandated uniform maintenance fee, but for months now I’ve also been forced to work off the clock and after my shift ends at midnight, two nights a week for five to 10 minutes, sometimes 10 to 20 minutes off the clock. It means doing clean-up and other basic job duties. It may not sound like a lot, but when you’re living on the edge like me, every penny counts.
The protest was part of a nationwide day of protest against wage theft in multiple cities across the country.
This article first appeared on Common Dreams.