Read

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.

Add new comment

Sign Up

Article Tabs

climate change denial, Carbon Washington, American Legislative Exchange Council, carbon tax, solar subsidies, solar tax breaks, fracking bans

These ballot measures are noteworthy because they don’t just regulate emissions or mandate transitions – they help the economically insecure, create incentives for individual change, and reassert local authority over corporate polluters.

Black Lives Matter, Movement for Black Lives, Black Panthers, Black Panther Party, Organization for Black Struggle, food pantries, community service, Michael Brown, Ferguson protests, Black Power Movement, OurStory, Black Youth Project 100, racial justice

Nearly two years after people took to the streets in Ferguson to protest the killing of Michael Brown, the nationwide movement has broadened its focus to community empowerment in ways reminiscent of the Black Panthers of the 60s.

water privatization, Nestlé, water grabs, Community Water Justice, water conflict, Fryeburg, Maine, Peter Gleick, water bottling, Cascade Locks

The Swiss corporation Nestlé has a penchant for gobbling up huge areas of freshwater across the planet and bottling it for profit – even as judges, courts, cities and entire regions try to stand in their way.

Take On Wall Street, break up the banks, too big to fail, financial transactions tax, 21st century Glass-Steagall, carried interest tax loophole, Dodd-Frank Act,

In launching a new coalition to reign in the power of the big banks, Warren warned said taxpayers still may have to bail them out: “Dodd-Frank imposed some discipline, but let’s get real. Dodd-Frank did not end too big to fail.”

Some of the biggest issues facing our country are forgotten once the cameras switch off, but our ADD news cycle only makes us more vulnerable to repeat disasters like the Flint water crisis.

climate change, global warming, Break Free from Fossil Fuels, climate protests, global climate movement, Carbon Brief, carbon emissions, climate arrests, British Petroleum, BP, Enbridge, Flood Wall Street, People's Climate March, risking arrest, civil dis

My arrest didn’t feel like a risk, it felt like a transaction. I’ve found freedom in facing my fears and dispensing with false choices.

Posted 4 days 20 hours ago
Nestle water grab, water privatization, Columbia River Gorge, Cascade Locks

Voters in one Oregon county last week approved a ban on commercial bottled water production, stopping a years-long effort by Swiss transnational Nestle to sell over 100 million gallons of water a year from the Columbia River Gorge.

Posted 4 days 21 hours ago

Some of the biggest issues facing our country are forgotten once the cameras switch off, but our ADD news cycle only makes us more vulnerable to repeat disasters like the Flint water crisis.

Posted 2 days 17 hours ago
water privatization, Nestlé, water grabs, Community Water Justice, water conflict, Fryeburg, Maine, Peter Gleick, water bottling, Cascade Locks

The Swiss corporation Nestlé has a penchant for gobbling up huge areas of freshwater across the planet and bottling it for profit – even as judges, courts, cities and entire regions try to stand in their way.

Posted 1 day 11 hours ago
wealth inequality, income inequality, wealth gap, growing poverty, growing disparity

After 35 years of wealth distribution to the super-rich, inequality has forced much of the middle class towards the bottom, to near-poverty levels, and to a state of helplessness in which they find themselves being blamed for their own misfortunes.

Posted 2 days 17 hours ago
Take On Wall Street, break up the banks, too big to fail, financial transactions tax, 21st century Glass-Steagall, carried interest tax loophole, Dodd-Frank Act,

In launching a new coalition to reign in the power of the big banks, Warren warned said taxpayers still may have to bail them out: “Dodd-Frank imposed some discipline, but let’s get real. Dodd-Frank did not end too big to fail.”

Some of the biggest issues facing our country are forgotten once the cameras switch off, but our ADD news cycle only makes us more vulnerable to repeat disasters like the Flint water crisis.

climate change, climate denial, Portland Public Schools

In a move spearheaded by environmentalists, the Portland Public Schools board unanimously approved a resolution aimed at eliminating doubt of climate change and its causes in schools.

Nestle water grab, water privatization, Columbia River Gorge, Cascade Locks

Voters in one Oregon county last week approved a ban on commercial bottled water production, stopping a years-long effort by Swiss transnational Nestle to sell over 100 million gallons of water a year from the Columbia River Gorge.

climate change, global warming, Break Free from Fossil Fuels, climate protests, global climate movement, Carbon Brief, carbon emissions, climate arrests, British Petroleum, BP, Enbridge, Flood Wall Street, People's Climate March, risking arrest, civil dis

My arrest didn’t feel like a risk, it felt like a transaction. I’ve found freedom in facing my fears and dispensing with false choices.