While New York workers won the recent battle for a $15.00 minimum wage, the war seems to be far from over. A powerful union is pitting itself against equally influential restaurant industry professionals. Casualties are mounting as a significant number of fast food employees are being fired for reasons that, at best, are elusive, if they exist at all.
New York City Councilman Brad Lander, who previously helped to enact legislation to protect freelancers and increase wages for rideshare drivers, is on the front lines of the fight, leading the charge to require fast food businesses to show just cause for terminating its employees. Lander points out that employers’ practice of firing “at will” employees for no reason is not based on any law that affords employers that right. Enacting mandates, once exclusive to unions, and converting said mandates into law could provide employees the protections they need. In his proposal before the City Council, Lander is also mandating that employees be provided an appeals process via arbitration.
On the other side of the front are restaurant industry powerhouses and their legal teams. They see organizing fast food workers as creating a de facto union that could bring in more revenue – via dues – to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Their last battle saw the SEIU successfully push for the Fair Workweek Law, which restricts employers from changing employees’ work schedules with minimal notice.
Fast food is serving as a proverbial “test kitchen” for protecting all employees from unfair termination. Raising the minimum wage to $15.00 was a victorious “first shot” and a significant victory. If Lander and the SEIU have their way, many more wins are in the offing.