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‘Just Cause’ Bills - The ‘Next Game-Changer’ For Low-Wage Workers Everywhere

Published Tuesday, February 18, 2020 11:00 am
by Joe Maniscalco/
‘Just Cause’ Bills - The ‘Next Game-Changer’ For Low-Wage Workers Everywhere

(NEW YORK CITY) - If enacted, “Just Cause” legislation newly introduced in the New York City Council could help further change the way Fast Food Workers and all other Low-Wage Earners live and work in this town.

Already buoyed by a hard-fought victory to achieve a new Minimum Wage, Fair Work Week Regulations relating to scheduling and mandatory paid sick days, Fast Food Workers aligned with 32BJ Service Employees International Union (SEIU) are now spearheading a campaign to shield hard-pressed Employees from being arbitrarily axed on the job

City Council Member Brad Lander’s Intro. 1415 has 32 sponsors and seeks to prohibit Fast Food Bosses from capriciously canning Employees they don’t like, while City Council Member Adrienne Adams’ Intro 1396 has 34 sponsors and demands that when lawful layoffs do occur, they only happen based on seniority - meaning those hired last will be discharged before those who’ve been on the job longer

“We ‘need to do more to address the constant threat of joblessness that workers in the industry still face,’” 32BJ SEIU President Kyle Bragg said ahead of last week’s Committee on Civil Service & Labor hearing. “We are ‘dealing with a broken system creating uncertainty and sky-high turnover.’  When Fast Food Workers ‘speak out, organize or report abuse, they become even more vulnerable to their employers.’”

Fired Chipotle Worker Melody Walker saw her work schedule whittled down to as little as eight hours a week, before being let go in August, 2017 - less than a year on the job.

“I ‘did my job well and made sure I arrived early for my shift,’” the mother of two said last week. “I was ‘hopeful I had a stable job and income to support family.’  ‘Things changed when a new manager took over the store.’”

According to Walker, the new boss started hiring on new Workers even as he was cutting the hours of existing Employees. 

“Things ‘were so bad that I had to go on unemployment while I was still working,’” Walker added. “It is ‘crazy that anyone should have to get public benefits while working for a company that makes billions of dollars a year.’”

Another Chipotle Worker who was unceremoniously fired after three years on the job tried to appeal his termination at the corporate level, only to be told the corporation “reserves the right” to do whatever it wants.

“They ‘fire us like we’re pieces of garbage,’” he said. 

People of Color make up the overwhelming majority of Fast Food Workers - two thirds of them are women and immigrants.

“We know that big corporations ‘use the constant threat of firing and economic devastation that will follow to keep Workers from banning together and to enforce their rights when companies break the law,’” Alyssa Peterson, a Liman Fellow at the Center for Popular Democracy said. “By ‘sowing fear, the at-will model leaves workers vulnerable to wage theft, injury and sexual harassment.’  We need ‘Just Cause’ legislation’ to ensure basic fairness at work.’”

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