Wage Theft in the Fast Food Industry

Danielle Sullivan |

Last week, fast-food workers filed class action lawsuits against the industry giant, McDonald’s, alleging rampant wage theft at its franchises, including “under-compensated overtime in California; uncompensated time cleaning uniforms in New York; and being required to show up, but not allowed to clock in, when business is slow in Michigan,” according to Salon.

These widespread wage theft problems, in addition to immorally low compensation, limited access to employee benefits and irregular hours come at a time when the fast food industry is booming and reeling in the profits. McDonald's and Burger King are part of a $200 billion industry.

As people of faith, we believe these employers should pay their hard-working employees enough to cover the necessities, support their families, and not force them to rely on government or charity programs. More and more, we're seeing how these multi-billion-dollar companies are making it harder for their workers to afford the basic necessities.

Recently, Mother Jones developed a living wage calculator to show what wages are needed to make a living depending on where you live, how many people are living under your roof, and how much you make in a year.

All workers deserve a living wage for their honest work, and this wage calculator only shows the severity of the problem.

Why Wage Theft Matters

For years, people of faith and worker center advocates in Interfaith Worker Justice’s national network have stood alongside workers pushing for an end to wage theft. Once again, people of faith are ready to throw their support behind workers with the hopes of pressuring profitable companies like McDonald's to do the right thing for workers, their families and our communities.

A recent survey in New York last year by Anzalone Research showed that 84 percent of fast-food workers are victims of wage theft—when employers (like McDonald’s franchise owners) pay less than minimum wage; refuse to pay overtime; force workers to work off the clock; hold final paychecks; misclassify employees as independent contractors; refuse to give timely breaks, steal tips; and, sometimes, fail to pay workers at all.

In response to such working conditions, fast-food employees have gone on strike, fighting for $15 an hour wage, the right to form a union without retaliation and an end wage theft.

As people of faith, driven by Scripture’s repeated admonitions against exploiting and oppressing workers, we believe that every job must enable those who work to support a family; workers must be free to stick together and advocate for fair working conditions; and employers must honor and respect their contributions, rather than abuse and exploit their toils through crimes such as wage theft.

Learn more about wage theft and how you and your faith community can get involved with the movement.


Photo from our friends at the Low Pay is Not Okay campaign