Monday, February 23, 2009
Why I Will Never Eat At Burger King
Besides having fatty and tasteless food, dirty restaurants,and poor service:
Increasing Income Inequality: In his inauguration address, President Obama said that "the nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous." The employment practices at Burger King and Goldman Sachs have done just this. Goldman Sachs' top executive, Lloyd Blankfein, netted over $70.3 million in 2007, the most ever for a Wall Street CEO. Burger King's chief executive, John Chidsey, received a $5.4 million pay package in 2008, 29% more than the previous year.
By contrast, Burger King's median hourly wage is $6.93, even lower than the fast food's industry median of $7.20. Working full-time at this wage yields only $14,414 per year - well below the federal poverty line of $17,600 for a family of three and less than 0.02% and 0.27% the pay of the two executives, respectively.
Opposing a Minimum Wage Hike. Although Burger King's revenue has grown 23% and its net income is up 607% since the 2006 IPO, the company has still fought efforts to raise worker wages. When congressional leaders sought to increase the federal minimum wage, Burger King executives fought the initiative, doling out $180,000 to lobbyists in 2006 and 2007 in an effort to kill the bill. In the six years prior to the introduction of the bill, Burger King and its franchisees racked up 333 Fair Labor Standards Act violations, including 168 for failing to pay minimum wage and 121 for failing to pay proper overtime.
Fighting Workers' Freedom To Form Unions: Burger King has fiercely opposed the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation which would make it easier for working Americans to join unions and improve their standard of living. Burger King spent $319,648 lobbying against the proposed legislation between 2006 and 2008 and has lobbied against the bill through the association of its franchisees and through its involvement in the National Retail Federation, one of the organizations behind an anti-employee free choice group called the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace.
Failing To Address Widespread Sexual Harassment: Burger King franchisees have been found
to have inadequate mechanisms in place to address the problem of sexual
harassment in Burger King restaurants.
In one case, the EEOC sued Burger King franchisee V&J Foods after a 16-year-old girl was harassed by a 35-year-old manager. The teen repeatedly complained to shift supervisors and the assistant manager, asked for a number to call to report the harassment, but her efforts were ignored or blocked. After her mother came in to complain about the harassment, the girl was fired. The court ruled against the franchise because it found that the company had no reasonable mechanism for reporting sexual harassment. The case was settled via consent decree shortly thereafter.
Similar allegations were made concerning Burger King franchisee Midamerica Hotels Corporation. According to the EEOC lawsuit seven female employees, six of whom were high school students, were subjected to repeated groping, demands for sex, and vulgar sexual comments by their manager. The employees reported the harassment to the assistant managers, who did nothing. It then took the employees weeks to discover the mechanism for reporting harassment. Midamerica paid $400,000 to settle the case in what was the fourth largest EEOC bias settlement against a restaurant since 1999.
Finally, at Carrols Corp, which is owned by Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc., sexual harassment was reported at 206 of its 350 Burger King restaurants. The EEOC compiled statements from 511 women who claimed they had been directly sexually harassed or subjected to a sexually hostile work environment. The judge accepted 333 of the statements and individual lawsuits are still proceeding.
Child Labor Laws: In 1992, Burger King paid a record settlement of $500,000 to settle a federal child labor suit that accused Burger King of requiring teenagers to work later and longer than allowed by law at nearly all of its then 800 company-owned restaurants. This did not stop Burger King from paying $40,000 to lobby against tougher child labor laws in 1999.
Failing to Protect Worker Safety: Fast food restaurants are notoriously unsafe. According to Eric Schlosser, "Hundreds of fast food restaurants are robbed every week...[and] roughly four or five fast food workers are now murdered on the job every month, usually during the course of a robbery."
Nevertheless, Burger King has consistently resisted accountability for its safety record. Looking to make more money, Burger King required its franchisees to extend hours late into night. A group of franchisees balked, stating that late hours would
compromise safety, but the company prevailed in court to enforce the extended
Burger King is also an active member of the National Restaurant Association, which fought and successfully defeated the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's proposed voluntary guidelines to prevent violence at stores open late at night.
Oppressing Labor in the Fields: Labor issues are not limited to Burger King's restaurants. After the Coalition for Immokalee Workers began to draw attention to the conditions for Florida farm workers in the mid-1990s, Yum Brands (the owner of KFC and Taco Bell), and McDonalds signed on to an agreement to pay an extra penny per pound for tomatoes in order to improve wages and working conditions. Burger King did not, and instead launched an offensive against the worker coalition.
In a speech at Davidson College, Burger King CEO John Chidsey said he wanted to "debunk" the myth of farm worker poverty and claimed that farm workers are paid better than many Burger King restaurant workers. Burger King also hired a security firm, Diplomatic Tactical Services, to spy on and infiltrate a student group which was supporting the effort to improve farm worker wages. Finally, two Burger King employees were fired for engaging in illegal action after a local newspaper revealed that a senior executive secretly posted blogs denigrating the coalition. Only after Burger King's actions received widespread criticism did the company sign on to improve conditions in May of 2008, 15 years after the conditions were first exposed."