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Domino’s Wage Theft

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Not only is the pizza inedible, but Domino’s also steals money from its already low-wage workers.

The workers who assembled and delivered the pie clock their hours on a computer system, and those workers are then paid.

But for years, according to the lawsuit against the corporate franchiser that owns Domino’s Pizza, the computer system used by franchises across the state systematically undercounted hours worked by employees, shortchanging them hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The lawsuit, announced on Tuesday, was the latest salvo in a campaign by the attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, against what he says is a pattern of corporations shortchanging low-wage workers.

Since 2011, Mr. Schneiderman has secured more than $26 million for almost 20,000 workers who were bilked of wages.

But unlike past cases, this one directly targets the corporate franchiser. If the state wins, Mr. Schneiderman hopes the case sets a precedent that makes it harder for corporations that run franchise businesses to avoid responsibility for the actions taken by the stores under their corporate umbrella.

“Wage theft is an epidemic causing harm to low-wage workers struggling to support their families every single day,” Mr. Schneiderman said in a statement.

The real importance here is moving the lawsuit away from the franchise to the corporation. This is absolutely critical in labor rights because it peels back one of the strategies used by corporations to shield itself from legal responsibility. Fast food chains like Domino’s routinely control costs by telling franchiers what to do, but then take no responsibility for what happens. If you want to change that, you have to fight for parent corporate legal repercussions for what happens at the franchise level. The same goes for subcontractors and temp agencies.

The surge in lawsuits, according to labor advocates, is a reflection of the changing nature of the American workplace.

Increasingly, corporations are using franchises, subcontractors and temp companies to fill jobs. One result is fierce competition to fill jobs with people who will work for the lowest possible wages. And, in turn, corporate franchisers can insulate themselves from charges of wage violations by creating a degree of separation between the corporation and the employees.

All of this needs to be a major front in the war on worker exploitation.

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