McDonalds is under investigation for firing workers who were participating in union activities, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg News. In claims filed with the National Labor Relations Board, workers allege that their employer cut their hours, fired, and suspended them for engaging in union activities.
As fast food workers from McDonalds and similar chains were staging massive strikes to protest their low wages, the firings were taking place: Complaints occurred over the course of more than a year, and have happened as recently as this April. All of the firings took place in New York, which is where the fast food worker movement originated:
How the NLRB falls on this case has serious implications for worker oversight in the future, Bloomberg reports, and could make it so that parent companies are required to better monitor how franchises treat employees.
While they may have faced retaliation for trying to unionize, on the broader scale it is well worth the risk. Workers in the industry would likely benefit greatly from unionization. Up to 84 percent of fast food workers in New York City, for example, claim that they’ve experienced wage theft. Workers at McDonald’s also report sexual harassment and exploitation of immigrant labor.
McDonald’s workers are also underpaid — something a union could help rectify. The federal minimum wage remains at $7.25 an hour, and McDonalds workers hover just above this baseline on average. They are a part of an industry that treats its workers the same way: over half of all full-time, front-line fast food workers rely on public assistance to make ends meet, whereas just 25 percent of the general workforce does the same. Employees in the fast food industry take in $7 billion each year in public assistance, with more than half going to health care programs, since very few fast food workers qualify for any kind of health insurance through their employer. Indeed, McDonald’s created a sample budget for its own employees that budgets exactly $0 for heat.
Still, McDonald’s executives maintain that the company pays “fair” wages.