Fast Food Justice sets sights on gains beyond $15 an hour minimum wage

Fast food workers on January 9 rallied in New York City to announce that the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs had recognized their new membership-based workers rights advocacy group Fast Food Justice.

Twelve hundred fast food workers in New York City have joined Fast Food Justice by signing pledge cards.

The pledge cards state that members want their employers to withhold regular donations to Fast Food Justice from their paychecks.

Now that the Department of Consumer Affairs has recognized Fast Food Justice, New York City employers must comply with their workers’ requests.

The regular donations will put Fast Food Justice on a firm financial footing that will enhance its fight for dignity on the job and a better community.

Fast Food Justice says that it will fight wage theft and monitor and take action to ensure enforcement of state of New York’s minimum wage law, the city’s new paid sick leave law, and the city’s new Fair Work Week law, which gives fast food and retail workers predictability about when they work and the number of hours they work.

The group also says that it will fight for affordable housing and transportation, for immigrant rights, for racial justice, and for fair policing and criminal justice reform.

“We want to bring change not only in the fast-food industry, but (also) in our communities,” said Fast Food Justice member Shantel Walker to the New York Times.

Fast Food Justice had its genesis in the 2012 fast food workers strike for a $15 an hour minimum wage and the ensuing Fight for $15 movement.

Those workers eventually succeeded in getting the state of New York to pass a new minimum wage law.

The new law increased the minimum wage in three phases. The first phase raised the minimum wage for most workers in New York City to $11 an hour, the second phase to $13.50 an hour effective December 31, 2017, and the third phase to $15 an hour effective December 31, 2018.

The workers movement’s momentum for a $15 an hour minimum wage helped bring about other benefits for fast food and other retail workers.

In May, the New York’s City Council passed and  Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law the Fair Work Week law, which requires fast food chains and retail employers to give employees more predictable schedules, adequate time off between shifts, and it restricts on-call scheduling.

The law also requires businesses to recognize a worker’s choice to join and fund non-profit groups such as Fast Food Justice by withholding at a worker’s request a regular donation to the group from a worker’s paycheck..

In order to have donations withheld, a group must obtain at least 500 signed pledge cards stating that its members want their donations withheld on a regular basis, and the group must be recognized by the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs.

The 1200 workers who signed the Fast Food Justice pledge cards told their employers to withhold $3.37 from their paychecks if they are paid weekly or $6.74 if they are paid bi-weekly.

Those amounts go up in 2019 to $3.75 and $7.50 respectively.

Since Fast Food Justice is a labor advocacy group not a labor union, it won’t be negotiating collective bargaining agreements with employers, but it will be standing up for its members and other workers in other ways.

It will fight to make sure that current laws that protect workers are enforced and to make sure that worker protection laws stay in place and are expanded when necessary.

Financially stable labor advocacy groups that fight for low-wage workers may be more important now than ever.

The labor policies of the Trump administration suggest that gains that low-wage and other workers have won will be coming under attack.

The National Labor Relations Board’s new Republican majority in December overturned the board’s joint employer liability rule that allowed corporations like McDonald’s to be held partially responsible when the corporation’s franchise owners violated labor laws.

At the Labor Department, President Trump nominated Cheryl Stanton to lead the department’s Wage and Hour Division.

The Wage and Hour Division among other things enforces the Minimum Wage law and other federal laws that protect worker rights.

Bloomberg reports that Stanton at one time was an attorney for Ogletree Deakins, a South Carolina law firm.

During her work there, Stanton defended employers accused of not paying the minimum wage and of misclassifying workers as independent contractors.

Stanton is awaiting Senate confirmation. Currently, the Wage and Hour Division’s acting administrator is Bryan Jarrett, who was appointed by President Trump to lead the division until Stanton is confirmed.

According to a report given at a recent American Bar Association labor and employment law conference, “the hiring of Jarrett follows a pattern of Trump administration employees (at the Labor Department) having a background of representing employers in workplace lawsuits.”

To take on these looming challenges, Fast Food Justice recognizes that it must grow. With that in mind, it has set a goal of increasing membership to 5000 by the end of 2018 and to 20,000 by 2020.

 

 

 

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