by Jessica Mason Pieklo, Senior Legal Analyst, RH Reality Check

February 9, 2015 – 10:01 am

The judgment is the latest victory against a fast food company for wage theft and another step in holding corporate owners legally liable for illegal acts of their franchise owners. (Papa Johns/ Youtube)

The judgment is the latest victory against a fast food company for wage theft and another step in holding corporate owners legally liable for illegal acts of their franchise owners. (Papa Johns/ Youtube)

A Papa John’s pizza franchise in New York must pay its workers nearly $800,000 in unpaid wages over allegations the business underpaid employees and failed to pay overtime, a state judge ruled last week.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in December sued Emstar Pizza Inc., which operates seven Papa John’s franchise locations in Brooklyn and Queens, alleging that Emstar underreported hours worked by employees over the past six years, rounded employee hours down to the nearest hour, and did not pay overtime.

Attorney General Schneiderman is also considering legal action against the franchisor, Papa John’s International Inc., on the theory that it is a joint employer and thus liable for the actions of its franchisees, according to reporting from the New York Post.

The National Labor Relations Board in July ruled McDonald’s a joint employer and thus liable for labor or wage violations at its franchise locations in a first-of-its-kind decision that represents a significant victory for workers’ rights advocates. Corporations like Papa John’s and McDonald’s employ about two-thirds of the low-wage workers in this country, but have so far mostly avoided liability for the illegal actions of their franchise owners under the theory that, despite sharing a common corporate brand, each franchise is independently owned and operated.

Any legal action taken by Schneiderman would build off that July ruling and advance a similar charge that Papa John’s franchises operate through uniform standards tightly controlled by the franchise’s corporate parent.

Should such a theory prove successful, it would make it possible for former employees to collect their stolen wages.

The U.S. Department of Labor reportedly provided information to help Schneiderman with the wage theft case against Papa John’s in New York.

Schneiderman’s judgment against Papa John’s prevents the franchise owner from selling the six stores unless the proceeds from such sale is deposited into an escrow account of the attorney general on behalf of the former employees.

“This judgment sends a clear message that like every other business in New York, fast food employers must follow the law,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “This Papa John’s franchisee brazenly violated the law, shaving employees’ hours and avoiding paying overtime by various means, including giving managerial sounding titles such as ‘head driver.’”

Schneiderman has sued another Papa John’s franchisee, New Majority Holdings LLC, for similar claims wage theft. That case is pending.

To schedule an interview with contact director of communications Rachel Perrone at


After a five-year investigation of the illegal business practices of 16 defendants in Utah and Arizona, more than 1,000 construction workers will receive over $600,000 in back pay.  In their announcement, the U.S. Department of Labor said that consent judgements from the defendants, operating collectively as CSG Workforce Partners, Universal Contracting, LLC and Arizona Tract/Arizona CLA, will end the forced signing of documents which misclassified the workers as independent contractors.

Labor Sec. Perez published a proud op-ed following the investigation

Labor Sec. Perez published a proud op-ed following the investigation


Secretary of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez described the gravity of the matter in a Huffington Post op-ed:

One day the construction workers were building houses in Utah and Arizona as employees, then the next day performing the same work, on the very same job sites and for the same companies, without the protection of federal and state wage and safety laws. The companies, in turn, avoided paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in payroll taxes.

As part of their business scheme, the employers changed their name to continue operating in Arizona using the same flawed and illegal business model.  The Labor Department investigation crossed state borders. Perez defended the lengthy investigation:

“Hiding behind deceptive legal partnerships to reduce wages owed to employees is wrong. We will not tolerate denying overtime and other employment rights to workers.  We will combat schemes like these with every enforcement tool we have, including partnering with other federal and state agencies to ensure that workers are not misclassified as owners or members of LLCs or otherwise. Deceptions like these deny workers hard-earned wages, hurt families who depend most on those wages, and leave workers without important protections if they’re injured on the job or laid off.”

In addition to the back pay and penalties, the consent judgements require the company to stop using LLC’s to avoid FLSA compliance, to abide by the FLSA, to treat themselves as “employers” and their workers as “employees,” to comply with the recordkeeping and anti-retaliation provisions of the FLSA, and to pay all applicable federal,state, and local taxes.

Perez chalked the successful investigation up to coordination between agencies:

We are taking a vigorous approach to enforcement, one that involves strong partnerships with the IRS and 20 states. Success in this space requires information sharing, joint compliance assistance and coordinated enforcement. We depend also on tips and referrals from companies that are being undercut by their competitors’ violations.

In a statement, U.S. Solicitor of Labor M. Patricia Smith praised the investigation and its results:

“We are pleased that this multi-agency effort has helped so many workers find justice, and produced a change in business practices in the regional construction industry.  This kind of cooperation among state and federal law enforcement authorities will serve as a model for preventing misclassification and similar practices that deny workers’ their wages and protections, and undermine law-abiding employers. The resolution of this case should send a strong message to any other employers, in any industry, contemplating such a scheme.”

Author: Steve Cooper


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Lessons from Chicago Movers’ Six-Month Strike

 April 08, 2015 / Mark Brenner

After nearly two years of organizing and a grueling six-month strike, in February workers at Golan’s Moving and Storage in Skokie, Illinois, ratified their first contract.

The movers organized with support from the worker center Arise Chicago, and voted in December 2013 to unionize with Teamsters Local 705. They were fed up with daily abuses, stagnant pay, and rampant wage theft.

Workers were forced to show up before 6:30 a.m. to load the company’s trucks—but only got paid for the hours they worked after reaching the customer’s house. The company regularly deducted $500 for “training costs” from workers promoted to foreman or driver positions. Fines for small infractions siphoned even more money out of paychecks.

After the union vote, Golan’s followed a familiar strategy: it sought to blunt the union’s appeal with fresh raises and new perks, and at the same time did its best to drag out negotiations. If a year goes by with no contract, the window reopens to challenge union recognition and call for a new election.

But rather than try to soldier through the company’s attrition strategy, the new union struck on July 28, right in the midst of the busy season. Eighty-two out of 100 employees joined the picket line.

Six months later, Golan’s workers emerged with a first contract and a long list of lessons for other new organizing campaigns. Here are a few.


Strikes are rare in today’s labor movement, and long strikes rarer still. Golan’s workers went on offense.

But they were smart about it. Before hitting the picket lines they amassed a pile of unfair labor practice charges against the company, giving them legal protection against being permanently replaced.

To shore up their claims before the labor board, union negotiators deliberately engaged in lots of written back-and-forth. They banked on the fact that the company’s spokesperson—more practiced at breaking union drives than at negotiating—would employ heavy-handed tactics. This proved true.


Even when a union wins a long strike, it’s often a hollow victory: only a handful of strikers return to their old jobs, because most have long since been forced to find work elsewhere—especially now that many working people are not just broke, but heavily in debt. In that case the union has to rebuild almost from scratch.

But this wasn’t the case at Golan’s. Of the 65 yes votes for a union, 50 walked back in the door at the strike’s end. One way the union had prepared to keep workers together through the campaign was by paying strikers.

Teamsters Local 705 has its own strike fund, established in the early 2000s after a decade of strikes in the union’s core sectors, like freight and UPS. The fund explicitly covers strikes for recognition and first contracts. So the Golan’s strikers weren’t going to be penniless after a few weeks on the picket lines.

Allocating daily strike pay—$50-$100 depending on job classification—required detailed records of picket line duty, a minimum of six hours. Strikers had to be serious about recordkeeping and holding each other accountable for participation and picket line conduct.

Golan’s workers were even able to recruit scabs to join the picket line—taking advantage of a provision that allows their local, with executive board approval, to use strike funds to compensate nonmembers who refuse to cross.

All this meant the union wasn’t forced to turn the picket line into a grim showpiece with a few symbolic stalwarts. Instead, it had plenty of picketers on hand, enough to use roving pickets, economic disruptions with customers, and other strategies to keep the pressure on Golan’s. (One fun tactic was deploying the inflatable rat or “fat cat” to aggravate the moving company’s ritziest clients.)


Arise Chicago was an important ally throughout the strike. For example, the worker center helped mobilize hundreds of community supporters to weekend rallies. It organized testimony in front of Skokie’s board of trustees about the rampant wage theft at Golan’s, and led the push for a Cook County ordinance against wage theft, adopted in February.

As a faith-based organization, Arise Chicago helped raise awareness and build support among area religious leaders, including rabbis and Jewish civic organizations. That boosted pressure on the company’s owners, who were part of the local Jewish community.

The worker center also amplified the union’s efforts to involve area politicians, including Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, who walked the picket line and pushed company owners to resolve the strike.


The connection with their congresswoman also helped the strikers unravel the company’s cheapest source of strikebreakers.

Golan’s had recruited international students to work during peak moving season under a J-1 “cultural exchange” visa. Once the strike began, more J-1 student workers were brought from around the country as unwitting scabs.

As it turned out, once the international students discovered that the on-the-job realities didn’t match Golan’s promises, strikers recruited many of them to join the picket line.

But union negotiators had also secured additional ammunition before the strike, when they’d used information requests to get copies of all the visa-holder contracts. In the fine print, they found language prohibiting J-1 student workers from being used in situations where there’s a strike or lockout.

Sympathetic student workers pressured their sponsoring organizations, several of whom broke ties with Golan’s, while Congresswoman Schakowsky hammered the U.S. State Department about the dubious value of the J-1 visa program in her district.


Initially the company seemed intent on dragging out negotiations past the one-year mark and then running a decertification campaign.

When workers upended that plan by striking, Golan’s strategy shifted. Its new principal tactic was delaying the labor board hearings on the union’s charges against the company.

By filing counter-charges against the union every few weeks, usually for the same offenses, Golan’s dragged out the proceedings for months. These charges were often complete fabrications. For example, one strike leader was accused of trying to run over scabs with his car—at a time he was in Ecuador visiting family.

The company’s goal was no mystery: force strikers to endure a punishing Chicago winter on the picket line, and hope the weather breaks the strike.

It’s true winter picketing wasn’t as fun as the summer, when strikers had held impromptu soccer matches and chili cook-offs. But workers started reporting to picket duty with snow shovels and firewood to keep the lines strong.


The union’s final move came in February, after the labor board had found in the workers’ favor and negotiated a resolution of Golan’s unfair labor practices.

The local offered an immediate, unconditional return to work. Members were prepared to report at 6:00 the next morning.

By law, Golan’s was forced to take everyone back. More importantly, the company was forced to discharge all scabs within five days.

Managers expected strikers to return with their tails between their legs. But the union’s message was clear: workers would be ready to strike again just as soon as the busy season arrived.

Without a contract, savvy worker leaders warned the Golan’s dispatchers, the movers could legally strike over grievances. And with its semi-permanent scab workforce gone, the company knew it was vulnerable to disruptions and other inside tactics.

The day after the last scabs left, the union announced a first contract with Golan’s.


For more on your legal rights in a strike, order Robert Schwartz’s book No Contract, No Peace at
A version of this article appeared in Labor Notes #433, April 2015. Don’t miss an issue, subscribe today.
Mark Brenner is the Director of Labor Notes. He can be reached at

Join us to celebrate Mayday- International Workers Day 2015! 10933867_10204231830863332_1564600749455674284_n

Mayday is celebrated as the day to mark the victory of the 8 hour work day, after a long struggle in the labor movement. Labor has since made great strides and continues to intersect the issues we all face as a community.

This year we will gather in Washington Park for music, theater performance and then take to the streets with a march through OTR.

Together, we will celebrate our victories in the labor struggle, immigration, shining a light on police brutality, and the CIWC’s current campaign to end wage theft.

Facebook page to invite all yr people!

Undocumented immigrants currently contribute significantly to state and local taxes, collectively paying an estimated $10.6 billion in 2010 with contributions coming from Ohio from undocumented immigrants currently at $700,000,00 and $95,000,000 post-reform.

Immigration Map

Immigration Map

Courtesy of Communities United for Citizenship, which meets every other Friday at the Worker Center, at 12pm.

Details are here: Fundraiser Brunch. Please send this on to all of your constituents!!

May 1st, 11am, Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church 103 William Howard Taft Rd.

Call us at CIWC to get your table reservations!

We will see you all there!

International Workers Day

International Workers Day

Love & Solidarity,

Jen Mendoza
Worker Justice Coordinator
Cincinnati Interfaith Worker Center
1235 Vine St

La Justicia Es Para Todos! 


Added to the CPD procedure manual 3/19/15:

Consular identification cards, issued by a country’s respective consulate, are recognized and accepted by the CPD for identification purposes.”

“The Department will assist immigrant crime victims with U-Visa Certification applications if they cooperate during an official police investigation and subsequent prosecution for qualifying criminal offenses. The Community Liaison Unit Commander is authorized as the Police Chief’s designated certifying official, to certify a petitioner’s request for U-Visa certification. Officers are authorized to distribute to any crime victim who may be a noncitizen an informational flyer describing immigration relief and services available to immigrant crime victims.

Federal courts have consistently held that undocumented presence is not a crime but a federal civil violation enforceable only by federal officers. CPD officers will not stop, detain, question, or arrest a person solely on the basis that the individual may have unlawfully entered the country and/or exceeded their Visa. CPD officers will not enforce immigration laws. However, if Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers request assistance from a CPD officer in detaining a subject, the officer will provide assistance with the approval of a supervisor.”

If you or someone you know feels that the new policy is not being fully enforced by the CDP officer encountered, feel free to contact the CDP, Richard M Longworth, Police Officer, Cincinnati Police Department, Immigrant Affairs Liaison,, or bring it to CUC, UFCW Local 75, or the Worker Center to work together on this.


(Courtesy of CIWC partner Communities United for Citizenship.  CUC meets every other Friday at 12pm at the Worker Center)

You are invited  to Sameerah’s going away gathering!! 

Our Executive Director Sameerah Ahmad is transitioning to a new position next month. We wish her well and would like to invite you to a gathering in her honor:

Please join us for a festive evening of friendship with Sameerah who is relocating to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois in mid-August.

We celebrate her deep commitment to social justice and her many accomplishments at the Workers Center. Her replacement will have some big shoes to fill.

We deeply regret that she is leaving, but we wish only the best for her and her family.

CAUSE: A Just Farewell to Sameerah

DATE: Thursday, August 7th

TIME: 7:00pm to 10:00pm

PLACE: Tina’s Bar — in the Ahmad Farewell Room (just ask and Tina will direct you)
350 W 4th Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202

CODE: Cash bar

ORGANIZER: Cincinnati Interfaith Workers’ Center


— Mike Brown, CIWC Board Member

Workers Rights Training CIWC July 2014

Workers Rights Training SPANISH CIWC July 2014