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Just Cause Firing


One of the biggest problems workers face is that employers can fire them for any reason. This should not exist. Of course, this is at the center of why every worker should have a union. Capricious employer actions are incredibly damaging to workers’ lives. You should read Shaun Richman and Moshe Marvit’s New York Times op-ed from 2017 on why this is so important.

Now, workers are picking up on this and because it’s New York, they are pushing to do something about it.

New York City’s fast-food industry has served as a laboratory for the nation’s labor movement for the last several years.

Its workers were the first to stage rallies demanding a minimum wage of $15 an hour. Then, they pressed for changes in the way national restaurant chains set their work schedules.

Now, they are asking the City Council to shield them from being fired without a valid reason. That protection, the sort of job security that unions usually bargain for, would be a first for a city to provide to workers in a specific industry, labor law experts said.

City Councilman Brad Lander said he planned to introduce a bill on Wednesday that would require fast-food businesses to show “just cause” for firing workers and give them a chance to appeal dismissals through arbitration.

Mr. Lander, a Democrat from Brooklyn, said he was responding to surveys of fast-food workers indicating that “there’s a substantial percentage of employees that have been fired unfairly.” One woman said she was fired from a Chipotle restaurant for not smiling enough.

Of course, the restaurant associations are furious, but they are basically evil. For them, SEIU is the big evil here. And SEIU has done more than any other organization to push for fast food workers’ rights in recent years, in particular funding the Fight for $15 movement. To win this would be a huge victory for workers and unions. And the industry know this.

Michael J. Lotito, a labor lawyer whose firm represents the restaurant industry, said New York’s requiring “just cause” for firings by fast-food employers would be a first in the country. He said New York City, San Francisco and Seattle have been competing to “out-progressive one another” by imposing labor-friendly regulations on low-wage businesses.

Mr. Haller said the proposed just-cause legislation was “a solution in search of a problem” and questioned its timing, given that New York City has an all-time low unemployment rate of 4 percent.

But Mr. Lander disagreed, saying his proposed legislation was needed, regardless of whether it might be part of a broader campaign to organize fast-food workers. He cited a recent survey by advocates for low-wage workers — the Center for Popular Democracy, the National Employment Law Project and Fast Food Justice — that found that about two-thirds of workers fired from fast-food jobs said they had been fired without being given a reason.

“No one should fear being fired for no reason at all,” Mr. Lander said in an interview. “This is not saying an employer has to keep a person who’s not doing their job well.”

Absolutely. But employers need to have reasons for their actions. Workers need rights. Good on SEIU and the New York politicians pushing to see this through. It should be something we all support. It should also be federal law.

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