News & Politics

It's Payback Time for McDonald's -- Lawsuits Could Force Company to Hike Wages

McDonald's offered wages designed to keep their workers in poverty.

Photo Credit: Kielaitis

McDonald’s workers across the nation have filed seven class-action lawsuits alleging that the fast-food giant practiced systematic wage theft of its workers.

McDonald’s employees filed two lawsuits in Michigan, one in New York and four in California. The lawsuits name the McDonald’s corporation and McDonald’s franchises as the defendants. The lawsuit filed in New York alleges that McDonald’s employees are required to pay out-of-pocket for their uniforms and all uniform cleaning expenses.

Those additional expenses really hurt already struggling McDonald’s employees, and they also violate a New York state regulation that requires companies to reimburse workers weekly for the cost of buying and maintaining uniforms. Meanwhile, the lawsuits filed in California allege that McDonald’s managers are constantly playing fast and loose with employees’ hours in attempts to keep down costs, which violates federal wage and hour laws.

To make matters worse, McDonald’s employees are already some of the lowest paid workers in America. According to 24/7 Wall Street, McDonald’s is the second worst paying corporation in America, behind only WalMart.

In 2012 the fast-food giant took in over $27 billion and netted $5.5 billion. Despite those billions a majority of McDonald’s employees are just paid the minimum wage. Shockingly, McDonald’s basically acknowledges its low wages and has encouraged employees to enroll in food stamps and welfare programs.

The situation a majority of McDonald’s employees find themselves in is more proof that it’s time to raise the minimum wage in America. Workers across America making the minimum wage are finding it harder and harder to survive on just $7.25 per hour. They’re unable to provide for their families, unable to afford healthcare and unable to lift themselves out of poverty.

This is crazy. Doing business in America isn't a right, it's a privilege. Companies get lots of benefits for that privilege, from limitations on their liability and risk, to the ability to pay their executives with options that face a maximum 20 percent tax rate. Their executives can even fly fancy corporate jets and eat $500 dinners and have it all tax-deductible, meaning they're subsidized by working-class taxpayers. To get these privileges, companies should at least conduct themselves to certain minimum standards — like paying their workers a living wage.   

Right now the only thing in the way of a minimum wage increase are Republicans, who consistently rationalize tax breaks for the rich along with low wages for the working poor by saying that raising the minimum wage will hurt the economy.

That’s simply not the case.

A study by the Economic Policy Institute found that if Congress raised the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour, the economy would grow by $22 billion in the initial phase-in period alone.

It's time to put the politics aside, and help lift millions of Americans out of a life of poverty and despair.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and author of over 25 books in print


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