Student Guestworkers to McDonald’s: Protect ALL Your Workers

Student Guestworkers to McDonald’s: Protect ALL Your Workers

McDonald’s J-1 guestworkers to march on company HQ, CEO’s home March 26

NEW YORK, NY, March 14, 2013—J-1 student guestworkers who exposed severe exploitation and retaliation at McDonald’s restaurants vowed Thursday to march on McDonald’s corporate headquarters and the home of CEO Don Thompson on March 26 if McDonald’s doesn’t take responsibility for ending labor abuse for all its workers.

While students and their allies marched on a Times Square McDonald’s to make their announcement, McDonald’s said that it had ended relations with the Central PA franchisee Andy Cheung, who employed the J-1 students. In response, the students released the following statement:

“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.”

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. Their fight reached the pages of The Nation, NBC News, and the Wall Street Journal.

“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.

Students held a high-energy rally at the Times Square McDonald’s at 1560 Broadway on Thursday, together with allies from UnitedNY and Retail Action Project, to announce their plans to march on McDonald’s headquarters on March 26.

The student guestworkers paid $3,000-4,000 apiece to participate in the U.S. 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
  • 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

CONTACT:  Stephen Boykewich, 718-791-9162, stephen@guestworkeralliance.org

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