The New York City Council voted today on two pieces of legislation to give just cause protections to fast food workers in NYC. Introductions 1415 and 1396 will require fast food chains with more than 30 stores nationally to implement fair termination and progressive discipline policies.

Said Council Member Brad Lander:

“Fast food workers have been on the frontlines of this pandemic, serving their neighbors, working in tight quarters, taking on new responsibilities for sanitizing, and yet often unable to speak up about health and safety issues for fear of losing their jobs. These workers, the majority of whom are women of color, have fought hard for years to raise wages and demand workplace protections.

“I’m grateful to them, to 32BJ SEIU, and to the partnership of Councilmember Adams and Speaker Johnson, for getting us here today to take this major step forward for workplace rights. Protections such as our just cause legislation will go a long way in lifting up families and giving communities a sense of stability.”

Background: 

Fast food workers can be fired or have their hours reduced, without any reason, and with no warning at all. Fast food workers have testified at length to City Council about the random, abrupt firings that characterize the precariousness of jobs in the fast food industry. A 2019 survey found that more than 65% of workers in the industry have been let go or had hours reduced without cause. 

New York City Council Introductions 1415 and 1396 will require fast food chains with more than 30 stores nationally to implement fair termination and progressive discipline policies. Companies will be required to provide a written explanation to any fast food employee they terminate. They would still be able to fire employees for misconduct or failure to perform work duties. Layoffs for economic reasons would also be allowed, but would need to be in order of seniority (to prevent bosses from laying people off arbitrarily). The bills will take effect 6 months after passage.

The top fast food companies have seen their share prices rise by an average of more than 20% in the last year, during a pandemic that sickened many of their workers. Collectively, the company values of the 8 largest publicly owned fast food companies have increased by over $42.4 billion since December 2019. At the same time, workers have faced the threat of layoffs and arbitrary firings, been tasked with many new responsibilities, and struggled to speak out about work place conditions.