McDonald’s Must Meet Its Guestworkers – 3/8/13

McDonald’s Must Meet Its Guestworkers

McDonald’s “investigation” of labor abuse must start by meeting students

HARRISBURG, PA, March 8, 2013—If McDonald’s is conducting its own investigation of labor abuse against J-1 student guestworkers at its Pennsylvania stores, it must begin by meeting the students fact-to-face, the students and their allies said Friday.

“We are glad McDonald’s says they are investigating the abuse we experienced at their stores, but if they are really serious about putting an end to it, they should sit down with us to discuss solutions,” said student guestworker and National Guestworker Alliance (NGA) member Jorge Rios.

Rios and other students will deliver a written request for a meeting to McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson at 3pm Friday via the manager of a Pittsburgh-area McDonald’s.

On March 6, the student guestworkers held a work stoppage at three McDonald’s in the Harrisburg, PA area to expose sub-minimum wage pay, wage theft, overpriced substandard housing, and retaliation against students to suppress lawful complaints.

The U.S. Department of Labor is investigating minimum wage and overtime violations, as well as retaliation against the students by the McDonald’s franchise owner Andy Cheung and labor supplier GeoVisions. The Department of State has also opened an investigation into violations of the J-1 visa program.

“When the NGA exposed the captive labor of J-1 student guestworkers at a Hershey’s Chocolate plant, Hershey’s pretended to investigate without ever meeting the students. When the NGA exposed forced labor against H-2B guestworkers at Wal-Mart supplier C.J.’s Seafood, Wal-Mart ran a cover-up and called it an investigation,” said Saket Soni, executive director of the National Guestworker Alliance.

“If McDonald’s is serious about taking responsibility for labor abuse at its stores, the first step is to sit down with its guestworkers to hear their stories and their solutions,” Soni said.

The student guestworkers, from Argentina, Peru, Chile, Malaysia, and other countries, paid $3,000 apiece to participate in the State Department’s J-1 student guestworker program, expecting decent work and a cultural exchange. Instead, McDonald’s used them as a sub-minimum wage exploitable workforce.

The labor abuse at McDonald’s comes after the revelation of similar exploitation against J-1 student guestworkers at a Hershey’s Chocolate packing plant in Pennsylvania in 2011, which reached the front page of the New York Times. It also comes as Congress is considering a massive expansion of guestworker programs as part of national immigration reform.

Official complaints online at: http://www.guestworkeralliance.org/2013/03/mcdonalds-guestworker-complaints-to-dept-of-state-dept-of-labor/

Students’ petition to McDonald’s online at: http://www.coworker.org/petitions/mcdonald-s-must-pay

CONTACT: Stephen Boykewich, 718-791-9162

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