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

We must shift the national plan of action – taking the climate justice fight to the extraction hot spots, from Appalachia to Alaska and from the heartland to the coastal rigs and carbon export terminals.

It’s the first time one century has wrecked the prospects of the millennia to come, and it makes us mad enough to march – for those generations yet to come, our children, grandchildren, and their children.

The Rolling Jubilee group that grew out of Occupy Wall Street has purchased and eliminated a portfolio of private student loans worth millions at Corinthian Colleges in California.

Our window of opportunity to mitigate the climate crisis is narrow – and while it sometimes feels like an impossible burden, history shows people-powered movements like ours have succeeded before.

The solution to climate change is a system change – grounded in human rights and ecological stewardship, where communities and workers are in charge of investment priorities ensuring the right to live and work with dignity.

Organizers haven't been shy about their underlying intentions: using the September march in Manhattan as a platform on which to build an international environmental social movement unlike any previously seen.

Posted 5 days 5 hours ago

If you're planning to take to the streets in New York City or elsewhere this week, know that today's IMSI technology used by police or the FBI could greatly affect the privacy of your cell phone and protest communications.

Posted 3 days 5 hours ago

Shifting toward community-based renewable power is a strong thread running through Scotland's Radical Independence Campaign, and a free Scotland could inspire other countries to relinquish their fossil fuel addiction.

Posted 4 days 1 hour ago

"We know it is fraud. They know it is fraud. We look to anyone brave enough to stand up and defend the rights of the people," says homeowner defender Sherry Hernandez.

Posted 5 days 6 hours ago

Using social media and alternative news networks, activists and citizen journalists have found new ways to tell Americans the real story – it's immediate, it's personal, its electronic and its everywhere.

Posted 3 days 5 hours ago
Southeastern Coal Exports: The Next Carbon Bomb

All signs are pointing to a dramatic increase of coal traffic out of Southeastern export terminals over the next decade.

Worker-owned cooperatives build economic democracy. But how do we build more worker-owned cooperatives?

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange made his case for Australia's prime minister.

The movement so rudely shattered this week is reminiscent of a group credited with laying the groundwork for modern Turkey.

Occupy Wall Street Vs. the American War Machine

Where a state stands on the international scale impacts the fate of that state's social movements. The United States' position as a global military power puts the Occupy Wall Street movement at a particular disadvantage.

Sign Up