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Can unionized service industry workers refuse off-the-clock work?

On Behalf of | Apr 25, 2024 | Hotel And Restaurant Unions |

Service workers, including restaurant employees, face some of the most stressful work conditions in New York. They endure unpredictable schedules, demanding jobs and often low wages when compared with other professions. Unionizing helps workers ensure a basic standard of living and safe work conditions. Unions help service workers and other professionals hold businesses accountable for misconduct and negotiate for better treatment.

One of the many issues that those in the service industry may face is pressure from employers who want to reduce the number of staffing hours on any given day. Organizations may try to train workers to perform certain job tasks before or after their shifts. Unions can play an important role in pushing back on this inappropriate conduct.

Small wage thefts add up over time

The failure to pay workers for the job tasks they perform is essentially wage theft. Every year, companies underpay hourly workers by billions of dollars in the United States. Service workers are among those most at risk of employer misconduct and wage violations.

It is common for restaurants to tell workers to perform certain job tasks before the beginning of a shift. A line cook might need to chop vegetables or crack eggs to prep for service. Servers might need to prepare silverware or restock stations. Businesses sometimes also instruct workers to clock out before performing end-of-shift duties like cleaning and securing the facility.

Although unpaid tasks may amount to 10 minutes or less of labor per shift, that adds up over time. A single worker could lose out on an hour or wages in one week if they do unpaid work at the beginning and end of each shift. Extrapolating that across an entire team of employees adds up to a substantial amount of unpaid wages.

Unions are in a strong position to help workers fight wage theft, including demands for unpaid labor. They can assist employees with documenting company misconduct to help resolve wage and hour issues. They can also bring the matter up during contract negotiations or inform the company of the legal violations that have occurred, which can lead to an end to abusive employment practices.

Communicating with unionized service workers about their rights could help them recognize when violations occur. With appropriate assistance and guidance, union professionals can help workers receive the pay they deserve and hold businesses accountable for economic misconduct.