McDonald's has forced a local franchise owner to dissolve ownership. According to the fast food giant, Andy Cheung must sell all six of his midstate locations. The decision was made after a foreign student labor battle.
Student worker Jorge Rios grabbed a bullhorn for a fresh breath of freedom. The Argentinean student shouted outside a McDonald's last week to raise awareness saying he and other international students were victims of labor abuse.
“We're living like animals because we're all piled together in one big basement,” said Rios.
The work-stoppage protest was held in the parking lot off the Tringle Road location, one owned by Andy Cheung. Rios and dozens other international students held signs, urging Cheung to stop the abuse.
Students said Cheung provided unlivable conditions in a basement. Rios explained six to eight men and women from around the world were forced to share space in a basement. He said each student was required to pay Cheung $300 a month for rent.
Each student in the J-1 program already paid $3,000 to $4,000 to travel to America to work and learn about culture. Students worked in half of Cheung's area restaurants. Often time, the students said they worked double and triple shifts without overtime pay.
They also said Cheung never provided transportation that was required by the program. Many had to cross busy highways in cold weather to walk to work.
On Friday, McDonald's said they were taking the allegations seriously.
“We began investigating the situation in Pennsylvania immediately upon learning of the issues involved,” a company spokesperson wrote in a statement. “The franchisee has agreed to leave the McDonald's system. We are also working on connecting with the guest workers on an individual basis to most effectively address this situation.”
After several requests for clarification, McDonald's did not provide any information if Cheung must close his six locations nor did they give a timeline when Cheung must sell.
One woman who was not involved in the J-1 program but worked alongside these students said she experienced their hardship first hand. She agreed to speak with abc27 under the condition of anonymity.
“One of the students was working from the previous day and he was making sandwiches. And he was literally falling asleep,” she said.
The woman said she and other workers hours were cut and instead the international students were forced to pickup extra shifts without overtime pay.
“It's ridiculous,” she said. “I feel bad for them. And, I wanted to do something about it, but I didn't know what to do.”
The woman said she eventually left the restaurant and called what Cheung was doing slave labor.
This woman said she hoped the students receive justice.
“I just think they should get what they deserve, [money, expenses paid]. It wasn't fair.”