McDonald’s Workers Are Suing, and the Battle Is Going to Be Fascinating

Search form

McDonald’s Workers Are Suing, and the Battle Is Going to Be Fascinating

McDonald’s Workers Are Suing, and the Battle Is Going to Be Fascinating
Mon, 3/17/2014 - by Jordan Weissmann
This article originally appeared on Slate

McDonald’s workers in New York, California, and Michigan filed class action suits against the chain, as well as several franchises, for wage theft violations. The cases accuse the fast-food giant of “systematically stealing employees’ wages by forcing them to work off the clock, shaving hours off their time cards, and not paying them overtime, among other practices,” according to a press release by the workers’ lawyers.

Sometimes, lawsuits are about winning money. Sometimes they’re about publicity. And sometimes they’re about fishing for information. These suits seem to be about all three.

First, the money. The workers are represented by Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, which is one of the few major American law firms that specializes in representing plaintiffs in class actions. It tends not to bring suits without a somewhat reasonable case or the chance of a significant payday.

Second, publicity. The suit comes in the midst of a long public relations campaign by fast-food workers demanding higher wages. Employees at McDonald’s and other chains have been walking off the job in daylong strikes that, while mostly symbolic, have added fuel to the drive for a higher minimum wage.

And finally, information. Lawsuits can reveal an enormous amount about the workings of a company that management wouldn’t ordinarily have to disclose publicly. The only reason we have a somewhat detailed sense of how Walmart pays its workers, for instance, is that the company was forced to hand over internal data as part of a gender discrimination case. Salon’s Josh Eidelson hits on a key point about the new class actions: They could give the workers’ attorneys the chance to dig through corporate records and find out more about the exact relationship between McDonald’s and the independent franchises that employ most of the chain's workers. Per Eidelson:

“In the past, McDonald’s has tried to shield itself from liability,” said Joseph Sellers, one of the attorneys bringing suit. But “we found evidence that McDonald’s has indeed exerted control over the daily operations” of the franchised stores that “makes it legally jointly responsible” for the alleged crimes.

If true, that could also mean McDonald’s corporate offices have a little more responsibility for what its franchises pay than they’ve previously let on. It’s obviously too early to draw any conclusions, but if these suits survive in the courts, it might dig some fascinating dirt out from under those golden arches.

Article Tabs

Sleeping outside for an iPhone is O.K., but do it in furtherance of democratic expression and you’re in trouble, as protesters discovered during the past several weeks at Parliament Square.

Green is no longer unified, if it ever really was – as Bright Green, Lite Green, Deep Green and Dark Green tribes form around divergent environmental worldviews, theories of change, and ranges of tactics.

Do we or do we not as Americans have the right to know what we are eating? Here are initiatives from Hawaii to Colorado and from Humboldt to Josephine Counties to take back our food supply.

In order to help fund their courts, judges may be threatening people with imprisonment for their debts – and more than a third of U.S. states now allow people with debts to be jailed.

The cohesion between pop culture and politics in the 1960s made it easier to access politically charged art and music – something our generation is still searching for today.

Posted 4 days 15 hours ago

Klein's starting point is valuable for the pro-planet movement, showing the walls that are built by the system – and ourselves – to stop climate action.

Posted 2 days 14 hours ago

Heavy industry spending resembles the last-minute infusions of cash for TV ads, mailings, and staff that helped narrowly defeat campaigns for mandatory GMO labeling in California and Washington.

Posted 4 days 15 hours ago

“There are many of us here who are homeless because when we came back from fighting, we couldn’t get a job, we had mental problems and there was no assistance for us anywhere."

Posted 2 days 13 hours ago

It’s a fairly absurd situation and I’d like to document exactly what happened.

Posted 4 days 15 hours ago

Coke and Pepsi are spending millions of dollars to keep taxes from going up on their sugared products. It's all thanks to the infamous Citizens United decision. Watch Robert Reich break it down.

Sleeping outside for an iPhone is O.K., but do it in furtherance of democratic expression and you’re in trouble, as protesters discovered during the past several weeks at Parliament Square.

More than 200 families have been brutally thrust from their homes as discoveries of oil prompt investors and land grabs in the western part of the country.

Green is no longer unified, if it ever really was – as Bright Green, Lite Green, Deep Green and Dark Green tribes form around divergent environmental worldviews, theories of change, and ranges of tactics.

Testing cosmetics on animals goes against the non-violence principle of Ahimsa, and protecting sentient animals from suffering is enshrined in India’s constitution as the duty of every citizen.

Sign Up