It’s not like working in the fast-food industry is such a cushy proposition under the best conditions. In New York, many fast-food workers make the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour–even after years on the job. Nationwide, the average fast-food worker takes home about $11,300, well below the poverty line.
But that’s not the end of it: adding insult to injury, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office announced last week that it is investigating at least one fast-food chain over allegations that its franchisees practice widespread wage-theft, illegally cheating their workers of their meager earnings. The Attorney General’s office wouldn’t identify the company it’s investigating, but said it has issued subpoenas and is looking into several New York franchisees.
The Attorney General’s investigation comes on the heels of a new report that surveyed 500 New York City fast food workers and found that 84 percent of respondents reported some form of wage theft in the past year. Among the violations reported were forced work without pay, unpaid overtime, not allowing required breaks, late or bounced paychecks, and forcing delivery workers to pay for their own gas or bike repairs.
Long dismissed by labor organizations as a summer job for teenagers or a temporary position for people climbing the economic ladder, fast-food positions have become a larger and more permanent sector of New York City’s economy. While private-sector job growth in the city grew at a sluggish 3 percent between 1999 and 2011, fast-food jobs grew by 55 percent. And as fast food jobs have become a more central part of modern employment, labor groups have begun to give the industry their attention.
The report was commissioned by Fast Food Forward, the new labor movement organizing fast food workers. The movement began in New York City, leading to a limited number of walk-outs last fall and a much larger set of demonstrations last month. In the last month, fast-food strikes have spread to Chicago, Detroit, and elsewhere.
You can read the Fast Food Forward report here: