Quick Hit Aaron Cynic Tuesday November 12th, 2013, 5:24pm

Workers' Group Rallies Behind Two Fast Food Employees Alleging Mistreatment, Wage Theft

Several dozen members of the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago (WOCC) picketed the Wendy’s on Clark and Madison Streets Friday morning to push back against the alleged mistreatment of two veteran employees by the fast food restaurant's management.

According to WOCC, after Mary Harris and Vincent Jones, two workers who have been with Wendy’s for more than 10 years each, voiced concerns about reduced hours and a workers' compensation claim, management became “aggressive.”

Harris, a 64 year-old woman who lives in Section 8 housing on Chicago's South Side, said her hours have been cut from 32 per week to 21 after employees from other locations were brought in to work at the Clark and Madison restaurant.

“I don’t think it’s fair," Harris said. "I work like hell for this company. Why bring them in and take some of my hours away? That’s not fair to me.”

In order to maintain an affordable rate of rent in her Section 8 housing unit, Harris is required to submit paperwork signed by her managers to certify that her work hours have been reduced. Harris repeatedly tried to get a signature from management with little success and said she felt the delay in providing it might be in retaliation of her demands for more hours.

Cuts in hours for fast food workers, many of whom only make minimum wage, have dramatic effects. Nationally, most of fast food workers make an average of $8.94 per hour. A report released last month by the University of California at Berkeley showed that 52 percent of American fast food workers rely on some form of public assistance.

Meanwhile, Jones, 60, injured his shoulder when he fell down a number of stairs during a shift. Jones said he was off for two weeks due to injuries incurred by the fall, but Wendy’s only paid him one day’s worth of workers' compensation.

Local clergy members joined Harris, Jones and their supporters on the small picket line in front of the downtown Wendy's location Friday morning.

“These are the people who make this economy run,” said Rev. Liz Muñoz, associate priest at St. James Cathedral. “These are the people who should be resting now and they continue to work and put food on the table for their families and for us.”

Rev. Wendy Witt, from the First United Methodist Church of Chicago, cited the ongoing efforts of the religious community in the fight for workers' rights.

“Across the board, across all faith traditions, there is a strong mandate to stand up and fight for the workers who labor so others can eat and others can be served," said Rev. Witt. "It is not an option. As people of faith, it is our mandate.”

After speaking in front of the restaurant, the demonstrators entered the building and demanded management sign the paperwork for Harris. While the manager wouldn’t sign the document with protesters present, Muñoz accompanied Harris into the restaurant shortly after the demonstration and obtained the signature. With the document signed, Harris said her rent can now be lowered to accommodate her smaller income as a result of the reduced hours. Organizers say they will continue to fight for Jones to receive his back wages.

A manager at the Wendy's location refused to comment on the workers' complaints. 

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