Quick Hit Wednesday April 2nd, 2014, 10:25am

Op-Ed: McDonald’s Un-American Wage Theft

The following is from McDonald's worker Adriana Alvarez, who is also an active member of the Fight For 15 movement.

When McDonald’s hosts its All-American Game at the United Center today, I won’t be able to focus on how impressive the young athletes are or how happy I am that high school graduates get to show off their skills on a national stage because for me, the games are a painful reminder of how much McDonald’s exploits and steals from workers like me. While this profitable company takes from working families already struggling to make ends meet, it pours countless dollars into events like these basketball games to show that it cares about families and communities in the United States.

I’ve worked as a cashier at a McDonald’s in Chicago for four years and make $8.75 an hour. I am a proud single mother of a 2-year-old son and a hard-working employee. All of my paycheck goes toward paying bills and supporting my son. Recently, fed up that working hard was not enough to support my family, I joined fast-food workers across the country to fight for $15 an hour and the right to form a union. 

What’s often lost in the debate over fast-food wages is how fast-food companies rob workers of their hard-earned wages everyday, forcing us to work off the clock or not paying us for overtime. For workers already at the margins, struggling to get by, these lost dollars make a bad situation worse.  

Take the last four years that I’ve worked for McDonald’s. Everyday when I came into my shift I was expected to count my cash register before clocking in. I also had to count my cash register after clocking out. This took about 20-30 minutes everyday, so McDonald’s was stealing my wages and my time every day for four years. Also every time my cash register came up short or there was a fake bill I was forced to pay the difference.   

McDonald’s is a multibillion company; they have no reason to steal from us. With that money, I would have been able to do some of the things that I’ve needed to do. I could have taken better care of my newborn son and pay my bills. I want to be able to do things for my son and ensure him a bright future, but it’s hard to do that when you are living from paycheck to paycheck and when McDonald’s is stealing from me on top of that.

I know I’m not the only one.  Workers at my McDonald’s and fast-food restaurants in Illinois and across the country are routinely denied overtime pay and are made to work off the clock. Survey results released yesterday by Hart Research found that 89 percent of fast-food workers in the nation and 92 percent in Chicago are victims of wage theft. Profitable corporations are making it even harder for struggling workers by stealing our wages.

On Wednesday I will be outside the United Center cheering for the players, but I will also be speaking out and protesting McDonald’s Un-American Wage Theft. I’m sure that some of the parents of these kids who will be playing have worked for McDonald’s or in the fast food industry, and it’s not right for McDonald’s to be holding this spectacle to show that they care about youth while at the same time they steal from their parents

We shouldn’t have to live in poverty and rely on food stamps to get by. And much less, we shouldn’t have the little money that we do make stolen by profitable fast-food companies because when they do they are not only stealing from me, but also from my son and Chicago. Shame on McDonald’s.

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