McDonald’s Accused of Treating Workers Like Modern-Day Slaves
McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE:MCD) Canada is facing investigation after a foreign worker from Belize went public with his story of “modern day slavery.” Jamie Montero, along with four other workers from Belize, were forced to live an apartment where they paid absurdly high rent to the company, which deducted the money from their paychecks and refused to pay the workers overtime.
Jamie Montero came to Edmonton, Alberta, along with four others in September 2013, to work at McDonald’s in the hopes of saving money that he could then send home to his family in Belize. The five workers quickly realized they would hardly be able to live in Canada, let alone send money home to their families. Records indicate that the workers were paid $11 an hour, and McDonald’s took $280 out of their pay each bi-weekly pay period, according to a report from CBC News on Thursday.
McDonald’s housed Montero and his co-workers at a penthouse apartment in downtown Edmonton. Records suggest the the fast food giant charged the Belizeans $600 more to live there than what the corporation had paid the landlord in rent, and Montero says that the apartment was very far from the McDonald’s where he worked; “it was too far away and too expensive,” Montero told CBC News, adding that his commute was more than an hour on public transit.
“They brought us here and they are this big huge corporation. We felt that we didn’t have a chance to even voice our opinion because they brought us here so they could ship us back whenever they wanted to,” said Montero. “It was like modern day slavery.”
The corporation has since required all foreign workers to sign a contract which stipulates that they will not speak to the media.
Montero was fired from McDonald’s in November for allegedly complaining online about the company, an accusation which Montero says isn’t true; upon losing his job, he was also evicted from his apartment and has been staying in homeless shelters. “Instead of making money here in Canada my family have to send me money,” he said, according to CBC News.
Canada’s Employment Minister Jason Kenney has said that the situation warrants investigation if the Belizeans were coerced into living somewhere they didn’t want to live. “No one, including an employer can force anyone to live in a particular place. People are free to choose where they live,” he said in an interview with CBC News.
“If any employers is somehow using ways to coerce people to stay in a particular place, that would be illegal,” Kenney added.
The Belizeans told CBC News that initially they were excited by the promise of overtime pay at a rate of $16.50 per hour, which the recruitment company Actyl included in it’s advertisements and in the contracts the five workers signed. But “McDonald’s [said later] it does not give overtime to foreigners,” they added.
Montero says that he was “making more money in Belize [working construction] than I made here in McDonald’s in Canada.”
McDonald’s spokesman Richard Ellis has responded to Montero’s reports by calling him a “disgruntled employee,” whose input “is hardly the type of information you should be using to base your report.”