Workers across the country, including in Kentucky and Indiana, organized to go on strike, this time to protest the low wages paid at fast food restaurants. The strikes come during a time when studies have shown that more than half of fast food workers make so little money that they use public assistance. Although in Indiana the percentage of fast food workers on public assistance is less than 50% — 45% to be exact — the result still costs the state an estimated $131 million each year. Many workers hope to change that, such as Nicholas Williams, a cook at a McDonalds in Indianapolis. He notes that while McDonald's makes $6.5 billion each year, he makes only $7.35 an hour and cannot afford many basic things. He and others hope to see the minimum wage raised to $15 per hour.
Supporters state that when fast-food workers make so little, it hurts their entire family because the parents then need to work two or three jobs to support their families and are never home. Furthermore, these jobs typically lack health care that would benefit the family if someone got sick. In fact, forcing fast-food workers to work all the time to make ends meet prevents them from participating in the community at large.
Meanwhile, Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association CEO Patrick Tamm claims that raising fast-food workers’ wages would harm business and the economy. The state should be focusing on helping businesses grow, not keeping them down, according to Tamm. However, supporters of the workers counter that the minimum wage has remained stagnant for decades and that needs to change.
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Indiana wage and hour laws provide basic protections for workers. However, there is no requirement that the minimum wage be tied to the cost of living so that it would automatically rise along with costs. Furthermore, many employers disregard the labor protections that are in place, such as by making workers perform set up and clean up services without paying them for their time, or forcing them to work through their lunch break, or not giving them proper rest breaks. When this happens, too many workers are afraid to tell someone out of fear of losing their jobs — especially if their supervisor threatens them to stay quiet. Yet in that situation, an employee’s best recourse is to document what is happening and to consult an Indiana wage and hour attorney to learn whether a violation occurred. If so, then the employee has the option of filing a lawsuit for back wages and penalties (if applicable). In many cases, workers may even be able to form a class action lawsuit if the violation was widespread enough and the workers’ situations were similar. Contact an experienced wage and hour attorney to learn more.
Charles W. Miller & Associates is a plaintiffs’ law firm serving residents of Kentucky and Indiana. Located in Louisville, Kentucky, the firm provides representation in the areas of personal injury and employment law. Contact us today for a free consultation.