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McDonald's Workers Celebrate Back Pay Victory In Darien

Ali Warshavsky
Connecticut Public Radio
Rosa Franco addresses fellow workers at the Darien rest stop plaza where she was a McDonald's employee.

McDonald’s workers at service plazas along I-95 celebrated a victory Thursday, receiving thousands of dollars in back pay from their franchise owner. The workers and state politicians gathered at a rest stop in Darien to cheer on union SEIU 32BJ, which has been helping the workers organize in the same parking lot for the past year.

Over the past few days, several workers from the Darien McDonald’s have received checks from franchise owner George Michell. Delivery of those checks followed an investigation by the Connecticut Department of Labor of claims from workers at several locations.

The state found that Michell owed workers about $870,000 in back pay, and he was fined $35,000. The payouts ranged from less than $14 to more than $12,000. The labor department said the company cooperated with the investigation.

Rosa Franco told the crowd that she was laid off from the McDonald’s in the Darien plaza because of the coronavirus pandemic, and she just wants to get back to work.

“I work in this plaza for 16 years,” Franco said. “I received a check and they steal my hours, so the pay was a little short. I have been laid off for seven months. I need my job back.”

State Sen. Bob Duff was among the officials on hand to show his support for measures to improve conditions for those who’ve continued to work throughout the pandemic.

“These are our essential workers,” he said. “You will always be our essential workers, and we’ll always have your back. So victory today, the fight continues tomorrow.”

Aside from unpaid wages, service plaza workers cited a lack of paid sick time and inadequate protective equipment amid the pandemic.

“Though this is a victory, it’s just the first step onto the path of getting the workers the rights and respect that they’re due,” said Franklin Soults, a spokesman for 32BJ. 

The labor department is investigating whether other rest stop restaurant chains have paid their employees proper wages.

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