McDonald’s Student Guestworkers File Federal Complaints – 3/7/13

McDonald’s Student Guestworkers File Federal Complaints

Student guestworkers detail McDonald’s labor abuse to Departments of State, Labor

HARRISBURG, PA, March 7, 2013—After exposing severe exploitation at McDonald’s restaurants Wednesday, J-1 student guestworkers filed complaints with the Department of State (DOS) and Department of Labor (DOL), detailing labor abuse by McDonald’s franchise owner Andy Cheung and labor supplier GeoVisions.

The complaints—to the DOL Wage & Hour Division and DOS office responsible for the J-1 student guestworker program—detail sub-minimum wage pay, wage theft, overpriced substandard housing, and retaliation against students to suppress lawful complaints.

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. 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
  • Threats to cut hours further and surprise home visits from the employer and McDonald’s labor recruiter to suppress complaints

“McDonald’s abuse of student guestworkers shows how corporations trap guestworkers in sub-minimum wage exploitation using the fear of deportation,” said National Guestworker Alliance executive director Saket Soni. “Immigration reform must include POWER Act protections that let immigrant workers expose abuse without fear.”

The students and their allies are demanding:

  1. That McDonald’s pay students back back all the money they are owed, including the money they spent to come work for the company, unpaid overtime, and housing overcharges;
  2. That the McDonald’s franchisee offer full-time work to its U.S. workers;
  3. That McDonald’s reveal all the guestworkers at its stores, sign an agreement guaranteeing their basic labor standards, including non-retaliation against workers who organize to stop abuse;
  4. That the U.S. State Department protect future J-1 students by barring McDonald’s franchisee Andy Cheung and labor supplier GeoVisions from the J-1 program.

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:

Student petition to McDonald’s online at:

CONTACT: Stephen Boykewich, 718-791-9162

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