Fast food workers achieve ‘scheduling’ victory

Stephon Johnson | 11/22/2018, midnight
Thanksgiving came early for fast food workers, courtesy of the Department of Consumer Affairs.
Fast food workers Mark Hill/CNN

Thanksgiving came early for fast food workers, courtesy of the Department of Consumer Affairs.

On the anniversary of the passing New York City’s Fair Workweek Law, the DCA announced an industry settlement that will improve shift scheduling. Tens of thousands of cooks and cashiers at fast food places such as McDonald’s, Burger King and Shake Shack are now required to get their schedules two weeks in advance and receive pay for any last-minute changes to the schedule.

Fast food workers and their advocates said that the industry’s penchant for last-minute scheduling and lack of access to the schedule for viewing led to a bad work environment.

“The industry never used to tell us our schedule in advance,” said Edwin Cabrera, who works at a Domino’s in Manhattan. “And they’d change it at any moment. Now I can count on a more predictable schedule and a more predictable paycheck. And it’s all because thousands of us are coming together, knowing our rights and making sure those rights are respected.”

A DCA investigation into KFC found that at the same time the Fair Workweek Law went into effect, KFC management required workers to sign an illegal waiver forfeiting their right to premium pay for last-minute schedule changes. Because of this action, the settlement mandates an 18-month independent monitor of KFC’s labor practices with unannounced inspections and payroll audits. KFC settled with 600 employees.

“Fast food giants think they're above the law,” said Afiya Edwards, who received financial compensation from KFC. “Today we’re showing them they aren’t.”

“My settlement of over $9,000 is not just a victory for me, but for all fast food workers across New York City,” added Shani Rahman, who received a financial settlement from Smashburger. “Fast food workers came together to get the Fair Workweek Law passed, and we are continuing to come together to enforce the law. Having a predictable schedule would make it easier to take care of my 3-year-old daughter.”

Fast food workers said they’re still struggling to get enough hours to make ends meet on a weekly basis. Under the Fair Workweek Law, if a new shift opens up, current employees should have first consideration for those spots before new workers are hired, but employees say that isn’t happening. Flavia Cabral, a McDonalds’ employee for more than a decade, said all fast food workers want is to earn a proper living.

“We want to work,” said Cabral in a statement. “We want to build better lives for our families and have a brighter future. But the giant fast food industry won't give us the hours. With more hours, we could actually earn a decent living and have a shot at a better future, instead of just running in place.”

David R. Jones, president and CEO of the Community Service Society, a nonprofit organization promoting upward mobility for low-wage workers, said he wants to help workers meet their goals of making fast food jobs family sustaining jobs.

“As we mark the first anniversary of New York City’s landmark Fair Workweek Law, we are proud to stand with the workers who fought for these protections and the right to more predictable schedules,” stated Jones. “Our research revealed how widespread short notice and constantly changing schedules had become. The Department of Consumer Affairs’ actions to expose and address violations reflect the City’s commitment to strong enforcement, which is so important to ensure that these laws make a difference.”