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Fast-food franchise operators fearful of worker protest and calling for wage increases and possible unionization

01.15.15

JANUARY 2015, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

Fast-food franchise operators fearful of worker protest and calling for wage increases and possible unionization

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, January 5th- Fast-food franchise owners lead by the International Franchise Association, a group of approximately 17,000 fast-food restaurant owners and operators, have began to release information and business profits hoping to convince their employees and the public at-large that most of the franchise owners which includes McDonalds, Wendy’s, Burger King, Dunkin Donuts, Subway and others are just small business-people and can not afford to pay their workers much above the federal minimum wage.

The national campaign by fast-food workers, mostly at McDonald’s Restaurants, to push for higher wages is continuing.

Recent worker protests throughout the nation, including in Philadelphia, marked the one-year anniversary of the fast-food workers effort to raise their wages. Organizers stated that the protests were held in more than 150 cities throughout the nation.

In the spring of 2014, a new labor organization was formed to attempt to organize fast-food workers throughout the United States.

The New York City based “Fast Food Workers Committee” Union filed with the United States Department of Labor (DOL), in Washington DC to be recognized as a labor organization that wants to represent workers employed within the fast-food industry.

The Union comes into existence after reports indicated that some McDonald’s franchise owners violated the Federal Fair Standards Act (FLSAct) or have paid their workers through debit cards, which required the employees pay bank penalties for transactions.

In February, the DOL announced that former McDonald’s franchisee Cheubg Enterprises LLC, based in Middletown, Pennsylvania, agreed to pay more than $205,900 in back wages and liquidated damages to 291 employees.

A investigation by the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division found that the company violated the minimum wage and overtime provisions of FLSAct at the company’s six locations in central Pennsylvania.

Investigators from the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division in Wilkes-Barre investigated the complaint and found the violations of the FLSAct.

The trade group recently released information that stated only six percent of their affiliated members operate or own more than 100 separate franchise businesses. Also, the organization stated almost fifty percent operate just one. However, fewer than fifty percent of all franchise owners are affiliated with the organization and the trade group did not include nonaffiliated franchise owners in their data.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is supporting a national campaign called “Fast Food Forward” which includes calling for McDonald’s and other fast-food restaurants to pay their workers a “living wage.”

The “Fast Food Forward” stepped-up their campaign to raise the wages of fast-food workers and other employees of companies that pay their workers the minimum wage or just above, during the last quarter of 2014.

The workers pay and benefits, or lack of it, has turned into a national news story with worker strikes and protests, often resulting in fast-food workers being threatened or disciplined for their legally protected activity.

The nationwide worker protest at fast-food restaurants and demonstrations have resulted in workers and protesters also being arrested.

“Fast Food Forward” is being supported and sponsored by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and has provided manpower and financial help to the organization in its quest to raise the workers wages and become represented by an labor organization.

The International Franchise Association has created a web-site and hotline phone number to help counter the worker protest and wage increases demands.

A review of the web-site by the newspaper indicated that the trade group is fearful and warns their members because of the escalating worker protest, labor union involvement it the employees cause, state minimum wage law increases clearly made to target their affiliated members, and the attempt of the newly formed labor organization to organize their workforce which would likely increase wages and create new working conditions under a collective bargaining agreement for their workers.