Posts Tagged ‘Fast Food Workers’

Can fast food afford a $15 minimum wage?

April 15, 2015

Answer to the question: Yes.

An individual fast food restaurant manager might not be able to pay $15 an hour minimum wage and still compete with other restaurants paying $7.25 an hour.  But there would be no competitive disadvantage if there was a floor under all wages.

Non-compete contracts and the right to quit

December 8, 2014


“Non-compete” agreements were originally, at least in theory, a means by which companies protected inside information.  Now they’re being used to prevent employees from exercising their right to quit.


Source: The Wall Street Journal

Top executives and key researchers in big corporations have long been asked to sign “non-compete” agreements, forbidding them to go to work for a competing company within a certain number of years after they leave their original employer.  The idea is that they possess inside information that the competitor would pay well to know.

But now fast-food workers, dog handlers, camp counselors and workers in other mundane jobs are being required to sign “non-compete” agreements.  It is unlikely any of them know any crucial trade secrets.  The purpose of such agreements is to limit their freedom to change jobs.

The Jimmy John’s Sandwich Shop chain, for example, has a “non-compete” contract that forbids sandwich makers, for the first two years after leaving, to work in any restaurant that makes sandwiches and is within three miles of a Jimmy John’s.  Since most fast-food restaurants are located near other fast-food restaurants, this locks the ex-employee out of much or probably most of fast-food jobs.

IMG_2237High-tech workers have another problem.  If they’re prevented from working in their fields, even for only a couple of years, their skills may become obsolete.

“Non-compete” agreements discourage entrepreneurship.  I know of a number of founders of successful businesses who started out in large corporations, had an idea they couldn’t convince top management to accept, and left to pursue it on their own.  Under some of these agreements, the former employer might sue to stop them.

Another problem is that such agreements make it hard for a start-up company to hire new employees.

Employers say that the cost of training employees is so high it is necessary to lock them into their jobs to prevent them from taking their training elsewhere.  But this is to overlook another way of winning employee loyalty:  Just treat employees decently and respectfully.

There’s some question as to just how enforceable “non-compete” agreements are, especially for low-level employees who don’t know trade secrets.  But in the absence of definite rulings, the employees and their possible new employers are likely to treat them as if they are.

This is a good reason for fast-food workers, and all workers, to join together in unions to represent their interests, including in court.


The passing scene: November 1, 2014

November 1, 2014

Common Core and the End of History by Alan Singer for Huffington Post.  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey)

Is the purpose of public education to educate citizens or to train employees?   Alan Singer described how the New York State Board of Regents voted to allow high school students to skip final examinations in either American history or global history and substitute an exam or proficiency test in some unspecified vocational-technical subject.  He quoted a teacher on how a school dropped social studies so students would have more time to cram for Common Core standardized math and reading assessments.

Living wages, rarity in U.S. fast-food workers, served up in Denmark by Liz Alderman and Steven Greenhouse for the New York Times.

A Burger King employee in Denmark is paid the equivalent of $20 an hour, about two and a half times his U.S. counterpart.  He gets his work schedule four weeks in advance, and cannot be sent home without pay just because it is a slow business day.  And he enjoys the benefit of Denmark’s universal health care plan.  What’s the secret?  A powerful labor union, which negotiates wages and working conditions on an industry-wide basis.  And employers who are satisfied with a smaller profit as the price of not having extreme poverty.

Americans are working so hard it’s actually killing people by Esther Kaplan for The Nation.  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey)

Under-staffing is dangerous, but it is on the rise as a means of cutting costs and increasing short-term profit.  Workers such as nurses, who are tasked with preserving life, are stretched too thin to be able to do their jobs well.  Workers in dangerous occupations, such as coal mining, neglect safety precautions in order to get the job done on time.  This is a major factor in industrial accidents.  And workers who are pushed to their physical limits are worn down over the years.

Teacher spends two days as a student and is shocked by what she learns by Valerie Strauss for the Washington Post.

An experienced high school teacher spent two days shadowing high school students, one a 10th grader and one a 12th grader, and did everything the students did.  She learned how exhausting it is to spend most of the day sitting still and passively listening, and took away lessons she will use in her teaching.  I think the shadowing exercise should be required in college courses in education.

As infrastructure crumbles, trillions of gallons of water lost by David Schaper of National Public Radio.

Trillions in global cash await call to fix crumbling U.S. by Mark Niquette for Bloomberg News.

Get ready for deja vu in the credit markets by Ben Eisen for Market Watch.

With interest rates being held down by the Federal Reserve System, this would be a great time to issue bonds to perform needed repairs and reconstruction of water and sewerage systems, roads and bridges and other public works.  But now the Fed has decided to end its “qualitative easing,” which held down interest rates, so that window of opportunity is going away.

The Caliph fit to join OPEC by Pepe Escobar for Asia Times.

Pepe Escobar speculated on whose interests are served by the fact that ISIS is allowed to sell oil on world markets.

The War Nerd: Crunching Numbers of Kobane by Gary Brecher for Pando Daily.

Gary Brecher discussed the public relations war against ISIS and the appeal of terrorism and war to sexually-frustrated young men.

A harsh, impersonal economy

January 5, 2014

A friend of mine who likes to eat at the Taco Bell fast-food chain was given an invitation to participate in a customer survey.  Her reward would be a free meal—for a Taco Bell employee.

My friend worked for the Wendy’s fast-food chain in her youth, years ago, and she told me that in those days it was taken for granted that any employee was entitled to a meal (within reason) on their shift.  She was surprised that this is no longer the norm.

What we have now is a fast-food restaurant chain whose executives not only underpay their employees, but don’t care that they have a reputation for underpaying employees, and appeal to the public’s sense of charity to help.  Not that this is unique.

I realize how lucky I have been to spent most of my adult life in the afterglow of the New Deal.   I wish I could think that today’s harsher, more impersonal world is a temporary aberration.

McDonalds tells employees to budget better

July 17, 2013


McDonalds has teamed up with Visa to advise restaurant employees on how to lead a good life on a McDonalds wage.

mcdonalds.employeesSome of the things the employees would have to do are (1) hold two jobs, (2) pay nothing for heat or air conditioning and (3) get health insurance for $20 a month.

What were McDonalds’ executives thinking?  Did they actually think their advice was realistic?  Or was this an ill-conceived public relations ploy and, if so, who was it aimed at?

Click on Practical Money Skills Budget for the McDonalds-Visa financial planning web page.

Click on McDonalds Tells Workers to Toil 70 Hours a Week, Use Ripoff Payroll Cards as Part of “Financial Literacy” for Yves Smith’s detailed breakdown and analysis on naked capitalism.

Click on A Model World for Jim Henley’s briefer breakdown and analysis on Unqualified Offerings.


Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed and well-fed.
    ==Herman Melville (1819-1892)


[Update 7/19/13]  Click on Minimum wage workers teach economics to the economists for what it means to live on minimum wages.

NYC fast food workers report wage theft

May 20, 2013


New York Attorney General Eric Scheiderman has begun an investigation into wage theft from fast-food workers in New York City.   The alleged crimes include paying less than minimum wage, failure to pay overtime, failure to reimburse employees for work-related expenses and falsifying payroll records.

These things are not just bad labor practices.  They are crimes, just as much as picking somebody’s pocket is a crime.  And the victims are hard-working people at the margins of economic survival.

There is every indication that these practices are widespread, not just the actions of a few bad apples.   And to my mind, franchisers—McDonald’s, Burger King, Domino’s and the rest—have just as much responsibility to set standards for obeying labor laws as they have for setting standards of cleanliness and customer service.


Click on the following links for details.

State Said to Be Reviewing Pay for Fast-Food Workers in the New York Times.

New York City fast food restaurants find a lot of ways to steal from their workers on Daily Kos Labor.

When Your Boss Steals Your Wages: the Invisible Epidemic That’s Sweeping America by Lynn Stuart Parramore on AlterNet.