Wage theft is a serious crime, so serious, in fact, that a court has ordered several New York-based franchise owners of Papa John’s to pay $500,000 to 250 workers. According to Laura Clawson of Daily Kos, owners have paid workers less than the minimum wage and work off the clock. One owner, Abdul Jamil Khokhar, was arrested and will spend 60 days in jail as part of a plea agreement. This story underscores the need for all American workers to understand wage theft and support their fellow workers when they are victims of such exploitation. Wage theft usually hurts low wage workers, people who have the most to lose. If we want low wage workers to be responsible, we need to ask their employers to do the same.
Common Dreams has reposted an article by Michelle Chen who compares the protest methods of food workers to those once used by the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.), direct action. While these workers lack the “protection” of a mainstream union, they can take action and change quickly to outmaneuver their corporate foes. Some of the protest methods have included education about sustainability and good eating habits.
Will we soon see a day when McDonald’s workers are unionized and well paid? Probably not. But the action these workers are taking will hopefully wake us some consumers and force them to understand they only cheat themselves by asking low wage workers to make cheap fast food. Some workers will hopefully improve their pay and how they are treated. However, until consumers wake up and support low wage workers, big corporations will do what they do best: Keep wages low.
Postscript: A report has come out that consumers have had a negative reaction to Papa John’s threat to cut workers’ health coverage. Maybe consumers are waking up.