89% of fast food workers experience wage theft, survey shows

Underlining enforcement crisis, nationwide survey of fast food workers shows 9 in 10 experience wage theft

Wage theft is illegal in every state — but still a reality for 89% of fast food workers

A new nationwide survey by Hart Research shows that an astonishing 89% of fast food workers are victims of wage theft by their employers. Although wage theft is illegal in every state, it remains all too common: low-wage workers across the country are frequently required to work off the clock, not paid time-and-a-half after 40 hours, and simply not paid for all their hours worked.

In Seattle, the promise of our city’s criminal wage theft law has yet to see real-world application — not a single wage theft case has been prosecuted, despite the overwhelming evidence from this and other surveys that wages are stolen every day. And more than a year after paid sick leave became law, surveys show that many workers — and employers — remain unaware that Seattle workers have a right to paid sick leave.

“Passing strong laws is great, but it’s not enough,” said Yonas Kasa, who works at McDonald's on First Hill. “Workers need to know know what the law is, and we need to know that the law will be enforced. When we raise the minimum wage, we need to make sure that $15 becomes a reality for Seattle workers."

Seattle workers are calling for robust enforcement measures to be an integral part of any new minimum wage law — and in particular, to integrate a strong bottom-up education and monitoring component into the law.

“Wage theft is an epidemic in low wage jobs across the country, but we can address it if workers know their rights and aren't afraid to come forward," explained Rebecca Smith, Deputy Director of the National Employment Law Project. "As part of the minimum wage policy, the city should establish a training and monitoring program that is run through an independent worker-led organization.”

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Contact: Sage Wilson, Working Washington, sage@workingwa.org