Work Stoppage Exposes McDonald’s Labor Abuse
Student guestworkers faced wage theft, 25-hour shifts, substandard housing
HARRISBURG, PA—At 11 a.m. ET on March 6, 2013, student guestworkers from around the world will hold a work stoppage to expose severe exploitation at McDonald’s restaurants in Harrisburg, Lemoyne, and Camp Hill, PA.
They will join U.S. workers and labor leaders in demanding that the fast food giant take responsibility for labor abuse at its restaurants.
The student guestworkers, from Argentina, Peru, Chile, Malaysia, and other countries, paid $3,000 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
- Threats to cut hours further and surprise home visits from the employer and McDonald’s labor recruiter to suppress complaints
Students will march from their housing to one of the McDonald’s franchises where they worked. There, they and their allies will demand:
- That McDonald’s pay students back for the substandard housing that brought their wages below minimum wage;
- That the McDonald’s franchisee cease hiring J-1 student guestworkers and offer his full-time work to his U.S. workers instead;
- That McDonald’s forbid its franchisee and labor recruiter from retaliating against student workers for organizing for their rights;
- That the McDonald’s franchisee and its labor recruiter be barred from sourcing J-1 student guestworkers in the future; and
- That McDonald’s adopt basic labor standards for its franchises and reveal other guestworkers at its stores to prevent future abuse.
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.
“McDonald’s hijacked the guestworker program to access cheap, exploitable labor,” said National Guestworker Alliance executive director Saket Soni. “At a time when workers are organizing to win immigration reform and raise the minimum wage, McDonald’s is innovating new ways to turn immigrant workers into a sub-minimum wage workforce.”
“We need fundamental changes to guest worker programs so that any immigrant worker who sets foot in the U.S. has the same rights as an American worker,” Soni said.
WHAT: Work stoppage by student guestworkers to end labor abuse at McDonald’s
WHO: International student guestworkers; 50-100 labor, faith, community allies
WHERE: McDonald’s, 4230 Trindle Rd., Camp Hill, PA 17043
WHEN: 11 a.m. ET Wednesday, March 6, 2013
CONTACT: Stephen Boykewich, 718-791-9162