New York City fast food workers rally at a one-day strike on April 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
An update, with comment from the New York Attorney General’s office, appears below.
At an 11 am press conference outside a Brooklyn KFC restaurant, fast food workers and activists will release a new report alleging rampant wage theft in their industry, one of the fastest-growing in the United States. The report includes results from an Anzalone Liszt Grove research survey of 500 of the city’s fast food workers, in which 84 percent reported that their employer had committed some form of wage theft over the previous year.
Today’s press conference follows strikes by fast food workers in five major cities within six weeks, all demanding raises to $15 an hour and the chance to form unions without intimidation. The report, “New York’s Hidden Crime Wave: Wage Theft and NYC’s Fast Food Workers,” is being published by Fast Food Forward, the campaign behind the strikes in New York. It lands on the same day as a New York Times article reporting that New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman “is investigating whether the owners of several fast-food restaurants and a fast-food parent corporation have cheated their workers out of wages, according to a person familiar with the cases.”
Reached by e-mail, a spokesperson for the National Restaurant Association told The Nation, “We fully support compliance with all state and federal wage and employment laws.” The attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“Wage theft” is a term popularized by activists and advocates over the past decade to describe a wide range of ways in which companies fail to pay employees the wages they’re legally owed. The Fast Food Forward report identifies several types of violations as prevalent in the city’s fast food industry: employees working, without pay, before or after their shift; employees working overtime without being paid time-and-a-half; employees working during their breaks or not receiving breaks; and delivery employees not being reimbursed for expenses like gasoline or safety equipment.
The report quotes McDonald’s worker Elizabeth Rene, who says she loses up to $75 a month because she isn’t paid for the time she spends counting the register before and after her shift: “I feel cheated and used and like I’m not appreciated for my hard work.”A 2008 study by the National Employment Law Project estimated that the average low-wage worker loses 15 percent of his or her annual income to wage theft.