Seven fast-food chains agree to end ‘no poach­ing’ hir­ing pol­icy

Pawtucket Times - - REGION/OBITUARIES -

SEAT­TLE (AP) — Seven na­tional fast-food chains have agreed to end poli­cies that block work­ers from chang­ing branches — lim­it­ing their wages and job op­por­tu­ni­ties — un­der the threat of le­gal ac­tion from the state of Wash­ing­ton.

Wash­ing­ton At­tor­ney Gen­eral Bob Fer­gu­son an­nounced bind­ing agree­ments with the com­pa­nies — Mc­Don­ald’s, Aun­tie Anne’s, Arby’s, Carl’s Jr., Jimmy John’s, Cinnabon and Buf­falo Wild Wings — at a news con­fer­ence Thurs­day. Mc­Don­ald’s had pre­vi­ously an­nounced plans to end the prac­tice.

The so-called no-poach poli­cies pre­vent fran­chises from hir­ing work­ers away from other fran­chises of the same chain. That’s been con­ve­nient for fran­chise own­ers, who some­times worry about work­ers they’ve trained jump­ing to nearby branches.

But it has also blocked ex­pe­ri­enced work­ers at one fran­chise from get­ting bet­ter-pay­ing jobs at oth­ers, po­ten­tially keep­ing tens of thou­sands of em­ploy­ees around the coun­try stuck in low-wage po­si­tions.

With­out ac­cess to bet­ter job op­por­tu­ni­ties at other fran­chises, work­ers have less lever­age to seek raises in their cur­rent po­si­tions, Fer­gu­son said.

“Our state an­titrust laws are very clear: Busi­nesses must com­pete for work­ers the same way as they com­pete for cus­tomers,” Fer­gu­son said. “You can’t rig the sys­tem to avoid com­pe­ti­tion.”

In sep­a­rate agree­ments filed Thurs­day in King County Su­pe­rior Court in Seat­tle, the com­pa­nies de­nied that their poli­cies are il­le­gal, but said they wanted to avoid ex­pen­sive lit­i­ga­tion. Mc­Don­ald’s said it was pleased to work with Fer­gu­son’s of­fice.

“We be­lieve ev­ery­one at Mc­Don­ald’s has an op­por­tu­nity to grow and progress through­out their ca­reer,” the com­pany said in an emailed state­ment.

Fer­gu­son cred­ited the busi­nesses for quickly agree­ing to end the prac­tice na­tion­wide in re­sponse to his le­gal threats and said fast­food chains that don’t fol­low suit will be sued. The seven chains have more than 500 lo­ca­tions in Wash­ing­ton.

The no-poach poli­cies have been in­creas­ingly crit­i­cized by Demo­cratic at­tor­neys gen­eral and fed­eral law­mak­ers. Sens. El­iz­a­beth War­ren of Mas­sachusetts and Cory Booker of New Jer­sey wrote to the Jus­tice De­part­ment last Novem­ber ex­press­ing con­cern about their po­ten­tial il­le­gal­ity.

On Mon­day they sent a let­ter to 90 busi­ness fran­chises — not just fast-food com­pa­nies, but also mail ser­vices, fit­ness chains and more — seek­ing in­for­ma­tion about whether they have sim­i­lar prac­tices.

A coali­tion of 11 Demo­cratic state at­tor­neys gen­eral, led by Maura Healy of Mas­sachusetts, this week an­nounced a sep­a­rate in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the no-poach agree­ments at sev­eral chains, in­clud­ing Arby’s, Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts, Five Guys Burg­ers and Fries, Lit­tle Cae­sars, Pan­era Bread, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and Wendy’s.

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