Another Thing That Sucks About Working in Fast Food: Wage Theft

Fast Food Forward and New York’s Attorney General are looking into the industry’s payment practices.

Fast-food workers and wage theft
Willy Blackmore is TakePart’s Food editor.

There’s a crime wave sweeping across New York City, one that hits the city’s lower-income workers most dramatically. This isn’t a spate of assaults or a Summer of Sam kind of situation; according to Fast Food Forward, this “hidden” crime wave is the theft of fast-food workers’ wages.

This morning, the group released a new report, New York’s Hidden Crime Wave: Wage Theft and NYC’s Fast Food Workers. According to survey results, 84 percent of the 500 fast-food workers interviewed by Anzalone Liszt Grove, an independent research firm, reported experiencing wage theft of one form or another over the past year.

The release of the report comes on the same day The New York Times ran a story about how New York’s Attorney General, Eric T. Schneiderman, is looking into the labor practices at a number of franchises and a fast-food parent company. The Attorney General “is examining whether employers paid less than minimum wage, did not pay overtime, failed to reimburse employees for work-related expenses or falsified payroll records.”

Not being paid time-and-a-half for overtime hours and not being reimbursed for delivery-vehicle-related expenses (employees drive their own cars or bicycles) are two forms of wage theft outlined in Fast Food Forward’s report.

A Domino’s spokesperson told the Times that it was only reponsible for company-owned stores. “ ‘If anybody is paying below minimum wage or using the tipped wage credit, that would probably be independent franchisees in our system,’ the spokesman, Tim McIntyre, said. ‘And I can’t really speak to that.’ ”

Frustration over wage theft, low base pay, limited benefits, and other workplace issues have fed the recent wave of fast-food worker strikes. In the past two months, non-union fast-food workers have walked off the job in New York, Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, and just yesterday, Milwaukee. Over 400 workers joined the one-day work stoppage in Detroit last week, making it the largest fast-food strike in U.S. history.

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