Is a pro-union environment growing in the fast food industry?

Fast food employees in New York City will soon see a change in how they are scheduled. A new law, supported by local labor unions, requires employers to make employee schedules sooner and pay them for last minute changes, according to Reuters. The change is part of a larger shift in wage and lifestyle protections for low-wage workers.

What are the specifics of the law?

The new law has five major elements:

  • Schedules should be available two weeks in advance
  • Employees receive an 11-hour break between shifts
  • Employees earn compensation for "on call" shifts
  • Part-time employees should be scheduled for more hours before the business hires more employees
  • Employees should be compensated for changes in shifts within two weeks of work date

The focus of the law is on fast-food workers, but it will also benefit 90,000 building service workers of the Local 32BJ chapter of SEIU, according to Reuters. The scheduling law puts fast food employees in a peculiar position related to labor laws and collective bargaining.

Is a pro-union environment growing in fast food?

New York is not a right-to-work state. Despite this, many fast food workers are not union members. Still, the scheduling law increases worker protections normally found as part of union membership and collective bargaining. How will this affect local labor unions?

Fast food employees are generally not unionized because of the perceived temporary or transient nature of employment. Many fast food workers do not believe that they will work in the industry long enough to see benefits paid back by union dues. However, some in the restaurant industry think that the scheduling law and similar legislation could create a pro-union environment for fast-food workers, according to Eater.

Just as the scheduling law protects the wage and lifestyle of fast food employees, a pro-worker sentiment is growing in other industries. Recently, an employer dismissed a farmhand for organizing meetings among workers and seeking compensation for protective equipment required to do the job. Although the job descriptions are different, the challenges low-wage workers face are similar across all industries.

Now that fast food employees have secured a $15 minimum wage and clearer scheduling guidelines, could unionization be the next labor battle?

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