Like most Missourians, we spend the bulk of our time working and taking care of our families. So we were excited to get seats at the historic presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis.
But what we heard in the debate hall was a man who has no idea what the average American deals with every day. A man who doesn’t know what it’s like to spend hours caring for the elderly or cleaning office buildings. And a woman who has a plan to build a better future for working families like ours. A woman who has listened to our stories and has always made our fights her fights.
It’s not so much what we heard from Donald Trump. It’s more what we didn’t hear. We didn’t hear how he would raise wages. We didn’t hear how he would make healthcare more affordable. We didn’t hear how he would bring people of different races, religions or backgrounds together.
We did hear actual plans from Hillary Clinton. She was loud and clear that she’s committed to raising the wages of home care, child care, and airport workers, as well as, janitors, adjunct professors and other people like us. She will fight to raise the minimum wage so that working families in Missouri and across the country have a fair shot.
By Sherry Golden and Eugene Hubbard, Guest columnists at the St Louis American
McDonald’s Workers File Wage Suits in 3 States
By Steven Greenhouse
March 13, 2014
McDonald’s workers in California, Michigan and New York filed lawsuits this week against the company and several franchise owners, asserting that they illegally underpaid employees by erasing hours from their timecards, not paying overtime and ordering them to work off the clock.
The lawsuits were announced Thursday by the employees’ lawyers and organizers of the union-backed movement that is pressing the nation’s fast-food restaurants to increase wages to at least $15 an hour.
In two lawsuits filed in Michigan against McDonald’s and two Detroit-area franchise owners, workers claimed that their restaurants told them to show up to work, but then ordered them to wait an hour or two without pay until enough customers arrived.
Those lawsuits also argued that a McDonald’s requirement that employees pay for their uniforms illegally reduced their pay below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
“Our wages are already at rock bottom,” Sharnell Grandberry, a McDonald’s worker in Detroit, said in a news release announcing the suit. “It is time for McDonald’s to stop skirting the law to pad profits. We need to get paid for the hours we work.”
A McDonald’s spokeswoman released this statement: “McDonald’s and our independent owner-operators share a concern and commitment to the well-being and fair treatment of all people who work in McDonald’s restaurants. We are currently reviewing the allegations in the lawsuits. McDonald’s and our independent franchisees are committed to undertaking a comprehensive investigation of the allegations and will take any necessary actions as they apply to our respective organizations.”
In three lawsuits brought in California, the workers claim that the McDonald’s restaurants employing them did not pay them for all hours worked, shaved hours from pay records and denied them required meal periods and rest breaks.
The lawyers are contending that McDonald’s should be considered a joint employer and share liability with its franchisees, although the company, like many other fast-food chains with franchises, has argued in the past that it is not a joint employer and should not be liable for its franchisees’ misdeeds on the ground that the franchised restaurants are independently run businesses.
The strategists behind the push for a $15 wage, which is largely financed by the Service Employees International Union, are trying to pressure McDonald’s and other fast-food chains to increase wages and not oppose union-organizing efforts. The movement began with several one-day strikes in New York in 2012 and expanded to one-day strikes in more than 70 cities last December.
Several McDonald’s workers also filed suit in New York, contending that they were not reimbursed for the cost of cleaning their uniforms. “Because McDonald’s restaurants pay so little, forcing workers to clean their Golden Arches uniforms on their own dime drives many workers’ wages below the legal minimum,” said Jim Reif, a lawyer for the New York plaintiffs.
All told, seven lawsuits have been filed, including one against the roughly 100 McDonald’s restaurants in California that are company-owned and operated. That lawsuit aims to be a class action representing 27,000 current and former McDonald’s employees.
The lawyers said most McDonald’s franchisees used software provided by the company that calculates employee-to-sales ratios and instructs restaurants to reduce staffing when sales drop below a certain level in any given hour. As a result, the lawyers said, some McDonald’s workers in the suit were ordered, upon reporting to work, not to clock in for an hour or two and instead wait until more customers arrived.
In several lawsuits, workers contend that they were at times told to clock out but remain in the restaurant or parking lot for an hour to two after business slowed down — perhaps when business slackened after the breakfast rush — so they could be on hand to clock back in when hourly sales picked up.
Jason Hughes, a McDonald’s employee in Fremont, Calif., said sometimes he was ordered to punch out soon after starting work and to hang around unpaid. “I’d have to be ready to punch in as soon as the store gets busy,” he said. “When the store is understaffed, our management would tell us we can’t take our breaks.”
For Missouri to really compete, our state needs an educated workforce, a strong transportation infrastructure, and a climate where entrepreneurs can thrive. But just weeks into the legislative session, the Missouri House and Senate are considering massive tax schemes that would undermine Missouri’s ability to build a strong economy.
Supporters of the schemes say that Missouri needs to follow the lead of states like Kansas. What they don’t tell you is that Missouri is already increasing jobs at a faster pace than Kansas, and that since Kansas cut some state income taxes, it’s increased its sales tax, and cities and counties have been forced to raise property taxes to avoid cutting needed services. What’s more, tuition at public universities has skyrocketed, and schools are facing a funding crisis. And Kansas expects to have even less resources for education next year.
More tax cut bills are expected to be debated throughout the legislative session. It will be important for lawmakers to consistently hear from constituents that they oppose these measures and their impact on critical services. Please start the conversation now by taking action.