New Legislation for Fast Food Workers

The Lempert Report
June 13, 2019

And it's not about $15 an hour.

The bill prohibits fast-food companies from firing workers or significantly reducing their hours without a stated reason and would give employees the chance to correct their behavior before termination. With this legislation, New York City could lead the nation in offering job security for fast-food workers.

The president of Fast Food Justice, an organization that fights for workplace improvements for fast-food employees, said that staff have been fired for infractions as trivial as not smiling enough.  

As the national Fight for $15 campaign highlights the need for living wages for fast-food staff, New York City’s just cause legislation stresses the importance of keeping some of the labor market’s most vulnerable workers employed.  

By some estimates, the fast-food industry has a 150 percent turnover rate.  

“For far too long, fast-food workers have been the victims of unfair reduction of hours or arbitrary termination,” New York City Councilwoman Adrienne Adams said in a statement to Civil Eats. “By enacting just cause legislation, the city could require that fast-food chains demonstrate a legitimate reason for terminating a worker or reducing their hours.”

A recent report entitled, “Fired On a Whim: The Precarious Existence of NYC Fast-Food Workers,” found that 58 percent of 237 fast-food employees have had their hours severely cut, and 65 percent have been fired without a reason.  

The New York bill would require fast-food chains to clearly outline job expectations and give workers warnings, chances to improve their behavior, and notice of possible termination.  

McDonald’s has another solution – they are hiring 250,000 summer jobs staffed by running ads on AARPs job board.While the percentage of teens (16 to 19) working summer jobs has fallen from more than 50% to 35% in the past 20 years, the 65+ crowd is the fastest-growing segment of the workforce. The average age of today’s fast-food worker has risen to 29-years-old.

If successful in passing the legislature, we may see it expand to certain supermarkets who do not value training and employee retention and poor labor practices as well.