- McDonald’s is lobbying the Trump administration to make changes to a bill that would require some employers to provide paid sick leave amid the coronavirus outbreak, executives said on an internal call on Monday, a recording of which was obtained by Business Insider.
- McDonald’s leadership spoke with President Donald Trump on Tuesday morning. On Monday, they discussed concerns about how the bill would affect franchisees’ finances with members of the Trump administration, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
- “McDonald’s supports the bill that would provide sick leave support to employees impacted by Coronavirus, and in fact, McDonald’s and many of its franchise owners have already committed to offer those same benefits to potentially diagnosed employees,” a McDonald’s representative told Business Insider.
- Fast-food chains have faced backlash about workers’ vulnerability during the coronavirus outbreak. An estimated 517,000 employees at McDonald’s locations don’t have paid sick leave.
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McDonald’s is pushing for changes to a coronavirus relief bill that would require its restaurants across the US — 95% which are owned by franchisees — to give workers two weeks of paid sick leave, describing it as an effort to protect franchisees’ financials.
The fast-food giant has been lobbying the Trump administration and Congress to alter a bill that would require employers with 50 to 500 workers to provide two weeks of paid sick leave, executives said on an internal conference call on Monday. McDonald’s has pushed back against plans to use a tax credit to cover the cost, which executives said would fail to protect franchisees.
“We know that the funding mechanism and the repayment timing could cripple small-business owners,” David Tovar, McDonald’s vice president of US communications, said on the call, a recording of which was obtained by Business Insider.
Tovar said McDonald’s was “pulling out all the stops to work with” the National Franchisee Leadership Alliance, “owner-operators, our trade partners, our friends in Congress, congressional leaders, and anyone who can make a difference to fix the bill.”
In an industry where taking sick leave is not encouraged, will companies like McDonald’s and Chipotle protect workers and the public?
Running the grill, marinating the meat, and taking out the trash are just a few of Luis Torres’s responsibilities at the Chipotle Mexican Grill where he works in Midtown Manhattan—“I basically do everything,” he said. And, he added, every time he’s felt too ill to work during his 13 months at the fast-casual restaurant chain, his managers have discouraged him from calling in sick.
“Once, I had a fever and I wasn’t feeling good, and [supervisors] told me to work anyway,” said Torres. “They give you an attitude or tell you that they don’t have people to cover your shift.”
Even as he’s suffered from cold and flu symptoms, Torres said he’s cut peppers, onions, and prepared meat. “We’re told that that we have a role to play and that’s to work,” said the 22-year-old employee.
Chipotle told Civil Eats that company policy requires sick employees to stay home and that it communicates with all employees about how to properly request sick time. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that’s claimed the lives of more than 100 people in the United States and more than 7,800 worldwide, food workers across the country have staged walkouts and raised concerns about their health and safety at restaurant chains they say dissuade them from calling in sick and deny them paid sick leave.
With new federal recommendations to cancel gatherings of almost any size to halt the spread of the coronavirus, multiple states have recently placed restrictions on restaurants, limiting the number of diners who can be in an establishment at once and ordering restaurants to transition to drive-through and delivery service only. But those efforts don’t address the fact that just 25 percent of food workers receive paid sick leave, increasing the likelihood that these laborers may continue to show up to work ill and spread infectious diseases to colleagues and customers. The coronavirus cannot be transmitted through food, but the virus can live on high-touch surfaces found in restaurants, such as tables, countertops, cardboard, and plastic.
A Waffle House employee in Georgia has already tested positive for coronavirus, and the restaurant chain granted him and his quarantined coworkers paid sick leave. Waffle House, however, stopped short of committing to pay sick leave for other employees who may contract COVID-19 in the future.
Additionally, McDonald’s announced last week that it would provide two weeks of paid sick leave to employees who contract coronavirus, but that offer applies only to workers at its corporate-owned U.S. restaurants. Franchisees reportedly operate more than 90 percent of the 14,000 McDonald’s restaurants in the country. Hence, McDonald’s workers are asking the company, the world’s second-largest employer, to ensure that all workers receive paid sick leave, be it for coronavirus or any other medical condition.
The federal government hasn’t offered much help on this front. The bipartisan Families First Coronavirus Act, which the U.S. House of Representatives passed early last Saturday, was largely billed as providing paid sick leave to U.S. workers impacted by the virus. Instead, it extends this benefit to only about 20 percent of the workers who need it, giving corporations such as McDonald’s and Chipotle the option not to offer paid sick leave and small businesses the opportunity to obtain hardship exemptions. This lack of paid sick leave is a major problem now, and it could exacerbate predicted future pandemics.
From McDonald’s to Whole Foods, Starbucks to Popeyes, here is what chains are offering (or denying) employees amid the coronavirus pandemic