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03/7/2019 | Improving Job Quality

New Report Reveals NYC’s Fast-Food Workers Are At Risk

On February 12, CPD released a report with the National Employment Law Project (NELP), Fast Food Justice, and 32BJ SEIU: “Fired on a Whim: The Precarious Existence of NYC Fast-food Workers.The report reveals that the lives of New York City’s 67,000 fast-food workers are frequently upended by arbitrary firings and dramatic cuts in hours that lead to housing instability, food insecurity, and family stress. The solution? Requiring fast food employers to demonstrate “just cause”–a substantial and verifiable reason–for terminations and significant reductions in hours. The release made headlines in The New York Times, The Guardian, New York Magazine, New York Daily News, Telemundo, and Politico among other smaller outlets.

Many people are surprised to learn that their employer can terminate them whenever they choose, for almost any reason. Today employees have no right to receive a warning before being fired, or even learn the reason they’ve been terminated. Employers can also dramatically reduce work hours, leaving workers earning so little that they are forced to quit. Workers can be fired for reasons as arbitrary as having nails that are “too long” or for “not smiling enough.” This model, called “at-will” employment, sows chaos throughout the fast-food industry, causing stress and financial instability for thousands of New York City families. Arbitrary and often biased managers wield enormous power over workers who are struggling to pay their bills, discouraging workers from speaking up about unsafe and unfair working conditions like sexual harassment and wage theft.

The report reveals findings from an original survey of 539 New York City fast-food workers, which shows that fast-food employers terminate workers with alarming frequency, that drastic cuts in hours are common, and that many workers are denied even a basic explanation when terminated. On February 13, CPD’s Chief of staff Amy Carroll joined fast-food workers and NYC Councilmember (and Local Progress co-chair) Brad Lander on the steps of City Hall to discuss the report and support the introduction of CM Lander’s and CM Adrienne Adams’ “Just Case” bill. This legislation would hold fast-food giants accountable by requiring employers to demonstrate a legitimate reason for terminating workers or reducing their hours. CPD is proud to be advancing a policy that would bring stability and security to thousands of fast-food workers, and to the families and communities in which they play an integral role. Read the full report on our website.