McDonald’s Student Guestworkers Hit Philly to Stop Labor Abuse – 3/16/13

McDonald’s Student Guestworkers Hit Philly to Stop Labor Abuse

J-1 student guestworkers demands McDonald’s protect all its workers

WHAT:  Protest by McDonald’s guestworkers, allies to end McDonald’s labor abuse
WHO:  J-1 student guestworkers; 30 labor, community allies
WHERE:  McDonald’s, 1401 Arch St. (at N. Broad St.), Philadelphia, PA 19102
WHEN: Saturday, March 16, 2013, 12:30 p.m. ET
CONTACTS:  Davin Larson, 913-909-7641, davin@guestworkeralliance.org Jesse Kudler, 617-974-3684, jesse@fightforphilly.org

PHILADELPHIA, PA—At 12:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, March 16, J-1 student guestworkers who exposed severe exploitation and retaliation at McDonald’s restaurants in Central PA will demonstrate at a Philadelphia McDonald’s to demand a meeting with McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson on ending labor abuse.

McDonald’s student guestworkers from Latin America and Asia joined the National Guestworker Alliance 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.

They and their allies have demonstrated at McDonald’s stores in Pittsburgh and New York City, and the students have pledged to take their fight to McDonald’s corporate headquarters near Chicago and to the home of CEO Don Thompson. They are joined in Philadelphia by allies from Fight for Philly.

Under heavy public fire, McDonald’s announced Thursday it would sever ties with the franchisee that employed the students. The students responded:

“McDonald’s action is an important admission of labor abuse at its stores. But a change of management at three stores will not protect the guestworkers and U.S. workers at McDonald’s 14,000 other stores in the U.S. We asked McDonald’s to meet with us and our allies to come to an agreement on how to protect all McDonald’s workers. If they will not, we will come to McDonald’s headquarters on March 26 to seek a meeting. If they will not meet with us there, we will come to CEO Don Thompson’s house and ask to meet him there.”

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

 

“The U.S. Department of Labor has registered 1,588 labor violations by McDonald’s since 2002. That tells us the exploitation of these guestworkers is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Saket Soni, executive director of the National Guestworker Alliance. “As U.S. corporations push for more guestworkers through immigration reform, McDonald’s needs to lead the way by pledging to protect workers against retaliation for exercising their labor rights.”

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

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