McDonald’s Guestworkers Join Forces with Chicago Fast Food Workers to Fight Exploitation – 3/25/13

McDonald’s Guestworkers Join Forces with Chicago Fast Food Workers to Fight Exploitation

Student guestworkers show solidarity for low-wage Chicago workers with teach-in at flagship Rock N Roll McDonald’s, bring their demands for worker protections to McDonald’s corporate headquarters. 

WHAT:  Teach-in by McDonald’s guestworkers on McDonald’s exploitation of J-1 visa program, in solidarity with low-wage members of the Mag Mile and Loop, followed by caravan to corporate headquarters
WHO:  International student guestworkers; members of Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago, and labor, community allies and local fast-food workers
WHERE:  The flagship Rock N Roll McDonald’s, 600 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60610, and McDonald’s Corporate Headquarters, 2111 McDonalds Dr, Oak Brook, IL 60523
WHEN:     Monday, March 25, 2013, 10 a.m. CT
CONTACT:  Davin Larson, 913-909-7641,
                      Catherine Murrell, 312-523-3882,

CHICAGO, IL—At 10 a.m. CT on Monday, March 25, J-1 student guestworkers who exposed retaliation and severe exploitation at McDonald’s restaurants will show their solidarity for organizing Chicago fast food workers by holding a teach-in inside the flagship Rock N Roll McDonald’s.

The students will be speaking to members of the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago, a new union for downtown fast food and retail workers, about how McDonald’s used the guestworker visa program to make them captive sub-minimum-wage workers. The teach-in comes at a time when business leaders are demanding an expanded guestworker program without adequate labor protections as a prerequisite to any immigration reform.

At 12 p.m. the students and their allies will caravan to McDonald’s corporate headquarters in Oak Brook, IL where they will personally deliver more than 60,000 petition signatures and call for a high-level meeting to discuss their demands.

McDonald’s student guestworkers from Latin America and Asia joined the National Guestworker Alliance as members and went on strike on Mar. 6 from the Central PA stores where they had worked, demanding that the fast food giant take responsibility for labor abuse at its restaurants. Their fight reached the pages of The Nation, NBC News, NPR, and the Wall Street Journal.

They and their allies have demonstrated at McDonald’s stores in Pittsburgh, New York City, and Philadelphia. The students have pledged to take their fight to McDonald’s Chicago corporate headquarters and to the homes of Board Chairman, Andrew J McKenna and CEO Don Thompson. They are joined in Chicago by allies from Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago, Jobs with Justice, Restaurant Opportunities Center and many others.

The student guestworkers paid $3,000-4,000 apiece to participate in the U.S. State Department’s J-1 visa program, expecting decent work and a cultural exchange. Instead, McDonald’s used them as a sub-minimum wage exploitable workforce. Students faced:

  • As few as four hours of work a week at $7.25 an hour, with exorbitant housing deductions that brought their net pay far below minimum wage
  • Shifts as long as 25 hours with no overtime pay
  • Being packed into employer-owned basement housing, up to eight students to a room, for $300 each per month
  • Retaliation by McDonald’s franchisee Andy Cheung and labor supplier GeoVisions against students for exercising their labor rights, including further cuts to hours and surprise home visits


“Employer retaliation almost blocked these students from exposing labor abuse. McDonald’s needs to disavow that retaliation and meet with the students directly,” said Saket Soni, executive director of the National Guestworker Alliance.


Campaign overview
Students on YouTube
Student Petition
Press Coverage


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