News and Studies
News and Studies
Major brand names are facing new pressure to address child labor violations at their franchised locations following a surge in cases involving fast food restaurants and other businesses operating under corporate licensing agreements.
Most fast-food and drive through restaurants aren’t run by the name hanging above the door, but are actually independent owners who have signed a licensing agreement with a corporation to operate under their brand.
Throughout the Biden administration, the US Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division has cited at least 33 independent franchisees of McDonald’s, Sonic Drive-In, and Dunkin’ Donuts, among other national brands, for violations ranging from allowing kids to work too late or operate ovens and other dangerous equipment, according to a Bloomberg Law analysis of the agency’s child labor enforcement actions.
When Jose de la Torre began delivering pizzas for Papa Johns in 2019, he made $15 an hour and shared a one-bedroom apartment in the Florence-Graham neighborhood with half a dozen other people.
After two years on the job, his hourly rate was the same but his work schedule had been cut — to about 30 hours a week instead of the full 40, he said. Meanwhile, his everyday living expenses had gone up. He began sleeping in his Nissan Altima, parking it near the Papa Johns in Lynwood where he worked.
“I made the choice,” De la Torre, 53, said. “It was either my car and eat, or rent.”
Fast food is the largest employer of homeless workers in California, with one of 17 unhoused individuals in the state working in the industry.
That’s according to a new report released Monday by the Economic Roundtable, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit research organization. The report highlights how the fast-food industry’s low-wage jobs contribute to the state’s homeless crisis and proposes improvements to keep workers and their families housed.
The research found fast food workers make up 5.9% of California’s homeless population and 11% of all homeless workers in the state. The poverty rate for the households of frontline fast food workers is also roughly three times higher than the rest of the state’s workers.
In May, the Department of Labor obtained a preliminary federal court injunction prohibiting the operator of 14 Bay Area Subway locations from violating child labor laws, threatening and retaliating against workers and obstructing a federal investigation. The 14- and 15-year-old children, who were operating dangerous equipment like ovens and working longer than legally permitted, faced threats when they raised concerns. California labor law limits 14- and 15-year-olds to three hours of work on school days, and no work after 7 p.m.
In May, an Oakland Popeye’s franchise shut down after a labor commission complaint was filed alleging unsafe work conditions and child labor violations. According to the complaint, a 13-year-old girl worked 40 to 45 hours a week and until midnight on three school days per week. California labor law forbids 12- and 13-year-olds from working on school days. Two 17-year-olds at the same Popeye’s worked until 11:30 p.m. on school nights. State laws limit 16- and 17-year-olds to four hours of work daily during the school day and permit no work past 10 p.m.
AB 257, a proposed law that would establish a statewide Fast Food Sector Council made up of workers, corporate representatives, franchisees and state officials that would meet every three years to negotiate industry standards on wages, work hours and other conditions for fast-food workers.
The bill would hold fast-food corporations responsible for ensuring their franchisees comply with a variety of employment and public health and safety orders, including those related to unfair business practices, employment discrimination, the California Retail Food Code, as well as new standards issued by the council. The bill would make franchisee violations of employment laws enforceable against franchiser and franchisee equally.
State and Local Policies and Sectoral Labor Standards: From Individual Rights to Collective Power
Ken Jacobs, Rebecca Smith, and Justin McBride
UC Berkeley, Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (July 2021)
UC Labor Center (May 2021)
On Labor (April 2021)
Rajiv Bhatia and Martha Dina Arguello
Physicians for Social Responsibility, Los Angeles (April 2021)
Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus and University of California, Berkeley Labor and Occupational Health Program (April 2021)
Center for American Progress (April 2021)
Report from the Office of Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (April 2021)
Michael Tayag, Ruth Silver Taube, Felwina Mondina, Katherine Nasol, and Forest Peterson
Santa Clara County Wage Theft Coalition (April 2021)
Kuochih Huang, Ken Jacobs, Tia Koonse, Ian Eve Perry, Kevin Riley, Laura Stock and Saba Waheed
UCLA Labor Center, UC Berkeley Labor Center, UCLA Labor Occupational Health and Safety Program, and the UC Berkeley Labor Occupational Health Program (March 2021)
Yea-Hung Chen, Maria Glymour, Alicia Riley, John Balmes, Kate Duchowny, Robert Harrison, Ellicott Matthay, Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo
Institute for Global Health Sciences, UC San Francisco, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, UC San Francisco, Department of Medicine, UC San Francisco (January 2021)
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