McDonald’s Workers Stage Protests In Spite of Voluntary Pay Increases

The center of the wage controversy
The center of the wage controversy

May 7, 2015–  Earlier this year McDonald’s Corporation announced it would be voluntarily raising its base pay to $9.90 an hour.   This figure exceeds the current Federal and State minimum wage requirements.  While the fast food giant’s compensation also exceeds the base pay for numbers of large employers throughout the United States it is far below the increase sought by a vocal band of fast food workers that call themselves Fight For 15.

Fight For 15 is an emerging band of increasingly organized fast food workers seeking a base pay of $15 an hour as their minimum wage.  These workers make it clear that it is more than a matter of principle for them.   It is economics.   The group, through its video and literary campaign, have spotlighted full-time employees with several years of employment with McDonald’s, and similarly situated companies, that are unable to meet the most basic of household expenses.   Many of these full-time employees are on government assistance because their full-time pay does not exceed the established poverty line.   Fight For 15 is looking to dispel the notion that being on government assistance and lacking work ethic are synonymous concepts.  They argue they are just being undervalued and underpaid.

McDonald’s workers have announced their intention to stage a protest at the May 21st Annual Shareholder’s meeting to highlight the economic plight of the workers.  They intend to present a petition signed by, over, 1 million Americans calling for the pay raises they are seeking.  This would not be the first such protest by the group.

Meanwhile, McDonald’s is in the midst of increasing economic pressure from rising food costs, diminishing sales, and competition.  Announcements have been made to close a number of locations and to undergo a revitalization of the company into a more “progressive” burger company.  New CEO Steve Easterbrook has made verbal commitments to address training, pay, and benefits on an ongoing basis; however, with 420,000 workers nationwide he has been unwilling to commit to a, more than, $6 per hour increase per worker.  The economic impact of this dramatic increase on the company is unclear.

Workers and employers across the country are carefully watching the McDonald’s saga unfold. The impact of the changes, or resistance thereto, for such a large employer and industry leader will likely resonate far beyond the purview of the Golden Arches.

 

Domino’s Pizza Latest Franchise To Settle Wage Claims

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April 15, 2015– Five owners of a total of 29 Domino’s Pizza stores across New York State have agreed to pay a combined $970,000 in restitution to workers to settle labor violation complaints, Attorney General  Scheiderman’s office reported Tuesday.

The violations, in general, involved minimum wage and tip rules and allegations that the subject stores failed to properly reimburse delivery workers who used their own cars or bicycles for deliveries, according to the state’s official news release

The settlements follow similar cases last year involving another 26 stores statewide.

From the Official Press Release:  NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced settlements totaling $970,000 with four current Domino’s Pizza franchisees, who together own 29 stores across New York State, as well as with one former franchisee who owned 6 stores. With stores located in Cortland, Dutchess, Erie, Genesee, Monroe, Nassau, New York, Onondaga, Ontario, Orange, Rockland, Suffolk, and Westchester counties, the franchisees admitted to a number of labor violations, including minimum wage, overtime or other basic labor law protections. In light of today’s agreements – which follow similar settlements last year with the owners of 26 other Domino’s stores statewide – Attorney General Schneiderman also called on the Domino’s Pizza corporation and Chief Executive Officer Patrick Doyle to exercise increased oversight of Domino’s franchisees’ pay practices.

For the entire transcript visit: http://www.ag.ny.gov/press-release/ag-schneiderman-announces-settlements-five-domino’s-pizza-franchisees-violating

Papa John’s Drivers Win Wage Claims Against Franchisee

(Huffington Post)
(Huffington Post)

March 12, 2014–  When customers of Papa John’s Pizza Franchise, in New York City, were charged a mandatory $1.50 “service fee” they were, falsely, led to believe this was a tip for the delivery driver; however, it was kept, entirely, by the franchisee employer.  At least, this was among the allegations of the New York State Attorney General when he filed an employment lawsuit against the owner of five Papa John’s locations last year.

Last week, a New York State Supreme Court Judge agreed with the Attorney General when she ordered Papa John’s to pay, up to, six years in back wages, overtime, interest, and damages to these delivery drivers.  The court found that, in addition to keeping the “service charges”, the Defendant had utilized the delivery drivers to do numerous employee related tasks during their down time and, therefore, should have been compensated as employees. The court indicated that the tasks assigned were outside of the purview of what a delivery driver is expected to do.  The compensation and damage award is expected to exceed the sum of $2 million.

While the franchisee in this case has indicated an inability to satisfy the judgment, the drivers’ lawyers are considering whether the law will allow the franchisor, Papa John’s Corporate, to be held liable for the actions of the franchisee.  Last year similar labor cases held the McDonald’s Corporate liable for certain, egregious employment actions of their franchisees.

Cases like this will, undoubtedly, have both store owners and Corporate Franchisors examining their daily, routine labor practices with an eye on the possibility of future litigation.

To read more see: http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2015/02/09/papa-johns-ordered-pay-almost-800000-wage-theft-case/

Pres. Obama and Gov. Cuomo Fight to Raise Wages

January 22, 2015– In Tuesday Night’s State of the Union address, President Obama made increasing the Federal Minimum Wage a central theme of his economic platform. While this proposal is not new to the President’s agenda, he used a recovering economy and the signs of an increasing Presidential public approval rating to bolster his opportunity to be more vocal on the issue.

While individual states always have the ability to deviate more favorably to employees from the Federal government’s wage standard, the President highlighted the moral responsibility of the Federal Government in setting a heightened National baseline on wages.  He was unequivocal in the expression of his belief that wage increases are essential to improving the fabric of the American workplace and the life of the American worker.

To a Republican controlled Congress, the President challenged “To everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full time and support a family on less that $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest working people in America a raise.” While this dramatic challenge may have resonated with the American people, it may be more rhetoric than policy as the, now Republican majority in the Congress, has vehemently refused to take up any measure increasing the Minimum Wage above the 2009 rate of $7.25 per hour.

The President also focused on other workplace related issues, which he was looking for Congress to take a leadership role in establishing national policy on, including paid sick leave, paternity leave, and universal day care. Once again, under the current make-up of Congress, passage of such legislation is also unlikely.

Meanwhile, in New York State, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a significant increase in the state’s current $8.75 per hour minimum wage to $10.50 per hour by 2016, outside of NYC. In a surprising change of position from his stance of late last year, the Governor also proposed a NYC differential of $1.00 per hour in NYC’s minimum wage, or $11.50 per hour by 2016. These increases would make NYC and NYS among the highest minimum wage jurisdictions in the country. Earlier this month, 21 other states implemented minimum wages hikes.

(see http://newyorkovertimelaw.com/blog/21-states-raise-minimum-wage-federal/)

In making his proposal the Governor focused less on the obligation of NYS citizens to support each other, or on the moral obligations of the NYS legislature, but more on New York keeping pace with the healthier state of the economy, “The world has changed. The market is strong and I believe the market, this market, at this rate of strength, can deal with this.” While the proposed wage promulgated by the Governor is far below his original proposal of $13 per hour, it is also unlikely to see clear passage with a New York State Senate in equal opposition as the US. Congress to such a measure.

While a substantial increases in the Federal and New York State minimum wage seem unlikely under the current political climate, the issue is of significant and consequential concern to a financially devastated American workforce. What it will take to transform this powerful political rhetoric into actual implemented legislation is unclear; however, it seems unlikely that these Executive standard bearers are, summarily, willing to concede the issue to their Republican opposition.

21 States Raise The Minimum Wage Above the Federal

January 8, 2014– The start of 2015 marked the commencement of an unprecedented number of U.S. states rolling out increases in their state minimum wage laws.   21 states in total, plus the addition of the District of Columbia, began the New Year with increases in the minimum wage that were the result of referendums of the November’s mid term elections, and state legislation.   All of these jurisdictions exceeded the Federal Standard of $7.25 per hour, which has been in effect since 2009.   While the Obama Administration has not been able to accomplish a national increase in the wage standard, these multi-state increases bring the total number of states whose minimum wage figure exceeds the Federal Government’s to 29, indicating a majority of jurisdictions do find the current Federal standard to be out of date.   While these states may agree that the Federal standard is out dated they do not have a uniform approach to remedying the issue, with a disparity of $2.75 per hour between the lowest and highest of the new state standards.

Below is a list of the States with January 1, 2015 minimum wage increases.

STATE 2014 WAGE 2015 WAGE
Alaska $7.75 $8.75
Arizona $7.90 $8.04
Arkansas $6.25 $7.75
Colorado $8.00 $8.23
Connecticut $8.70 $9.15
Florida $7.93 $8.05
Hawaii $7.25 $7.75
Maryland $7.25 $8.00
Massachusetts $8.00 $9.00
Missouri $7.50 $7.65
Montana $7.90 $8.05
Nebraska $7.25 $8.00
New Jersey $8.25 $8.38
New York $8.00 $8.75
Ohio $7.25 $8.10
Oregon $9.10 $9.25
Rhode Island $8.00 $9.00
South Dakota $7.25 $8.50
Vermont $8.73 $9.15
Washington $8.05 $9.47
West Virginia $7.25 $8.00
Washington D.C. $8.50 $10.50 (JULY 2015)

Livery Drivers Triumph Over Sitcom Star In Wage Dispute

It sounds like a dream job.    You finally get the call to work as a professional driver for a famous television celebrity during a Hollywood production.   You show up, ready to work, and do whatever is required of you, including working 19 hours a day to please your employer.  Then, after the production is complete, you wait to be compensated for the work you have done.    As days and days go by with no money and no, meaningful, response to your requests, that dream starts to become a nightmare.  Your demands for payment go unanswered for some time.  As you become increasingly more frustrated, you have no choice but to hire an Employment Lawyer to manage your wage dispute, protect your rights, and get you paid what you have earned from this mega-star.

While these allegations may sound like the plot of television show, they are, in fact, the claims of two drivers who were forced to take, former That 70’s Show star, Wilmer Valderrama to Federal Court in California, in order to get paid, last month. While the case has since settled, with a favorable resolution to the the employees, Valderrama’s team raised every possible defense along the way, including the fact that the drivers were not his “employees” but independent contractors and, therefore, were only entitled to base pay with no overtime for the 19 hour, sleepless shifts they dedicated to serving the TV actor’s needs.

While it may seem remarkable that hard working employees, who do everything required and requested of them, in the course of their employment have to retain skilled attorneys to protect their rights against employers, celebrity or otherwise, it is, sadly, an all too common an occurrence.  The defenses raised by Valderrama are not limited to celebrity employers.   All across the country employers of every size, and in every industry, are taking advantage of hard working employees every day.   When these employers are called to task on this behavior so many of them attempt to defend their actions through unsupported claims and defenses.  It is, often, only through the intervention of experienced Employment Law Firms that hard working employees, eventually, receive what they duly entitled to.

If you, or someone you know has suffered from minimum wage issues, it is important that they immediately contact an experienced Employment Attorney.  A qualified attorney can help employees stand up for their rights and recover compensation for their lost wages.