An update, with additional comment from strikers and from McDonald’s, appears below.
New York City—Minutes after striking guest workers protested outside a Times Square McDonald’s, the company’s corporate headquarters announced that it was ending its relationship with the central Pennsylvania franchisee who had employed them.
Just after noon, striker Jorge Victor Rios entered the New York City store with about twenty fellow strikers and supporters to deliver a message to the national chain. As police escorted them out of the building, Rios read, and the crowd repeated, a statement condemning the company’s alleged abuses. “American and guest workers, our struggle is the same,” the group chanted outside the store. “We demand dignity. We demand respect for all workers. McDonald’s must pay.”
As The Nation has reported, the guest workers came to central Pennsylvania on J-1 visas, which are officially intended for educational exchange. They allege that McDonald’s franchisee Andy Cheung required them to work shifts of up to twenty-five hours, refused to pay them for hours they had worked, charged them exorbitant rent for living packed together in basements he owned and threatened to punish them for speaking up. Fifteen workers have been on strike for eight days, working closely with the National Guestworker Alliance labor group.
In a statement e-mailed during the protest, McDonald’s announced that Andy Cheung “has agreed to leave the McDonald’s system.” The company added that it was “also working on connecting with the guest workers on an individual basis to most effectively address this situation,” and providing franchisees with information about the J-1 visa program’s requirements. The National Guestworker Alliance did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the McDonald’s announcement.
McDonald’s did not immediately respond to a request for further comment regarding the strikers’ demands, which include providing full-time work for US employees, disclosing where guest workers are employed in its stores, signing an agreement establishing organizing protections for workers and ensuring that the students are compensated for unpaid wages.