NEWSFLASH: Fast-Food Workers Protest Wage Theft

994037_10151996306273540_238336214_n.jpgFast-food workers nationwide have come together this week to protest wage theft at chains including McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s. Protesters report having been pressured to work while off the clock, purchase restaurant-related items, such as dish-washing liquid, out of their own pockets and work overtime without proper compensation. The rallies took place across the country, from Los Angeles to Atlanta and Kansas City, Mo.

Hart Research, a polling firm, released the results of a survey of fast-food workers Tuesday, revealing that 90 percent of respondents said they have experienced some type of wage theft. Broken down by chain, 84 percent said they experienced it while working at McDonald’s, 92 percent at Burger King and 82 percent at Wendy’s.

McDonald’s responded to the polling report with this statement:

McDonald’s and our independent owner-operators share a concern and commitment to the well-being and fair treatment of all people who work in McDonald’s restaurants … McDonald’s and our independent owner-operators are each committed to undertaking a comprehensive investigation of the allegations and will take any necessary actions as they apply to our respective organizations.

However, complaints about wage theft are nothing new in the fast-food industry, and so far nothing has been done to protect employees. Workers in California, Michigan and New York filed a total of seven lawsuits last month alleging wage theft at McDonald’s. One of the lawsuits, in Michigan, reveals that there is software installed on timekeeping computers at some locations that alerts managers when labor costs exceed a set percentage of sales. Managers will then tell workers to clock out for extended break times without pay to recoup costs. Considering the software is provided to the restaurants by the McDonald’s corporation, the company is well aware of the practice.

Fast-food restaurant workers are predominantly women [PDF] between 25 and 64 years old—meaning many have families to support. Refusing to work without pay and risking the loss of a job is not an option.

These protests come on the heels of the recent ‘Low Pay is Not OK’ petition, which calls for a $15-an-hour wage for fast-food workers. To join on the movement, you can sign the petition asking for higher wages, or tweet using the Ms. hashtag #StandWithRosie.

Learn more about issues facing women in the fast-food industry by subscribing to Ms.

Photo of Rosie the Riveter as a fast-food worker from the Fall 2013 issue of Ms.


Lindsey O'Brien is currently studying journalism at Ohio University and interning at Ms. Follow her on Twitter.