A threat to public health: Resurfacing of the anti-vaccine movement in Trump presidency – National Consumers League

clare.jpgGuest blog by Clara Keane, a graduate of Drew University, Madison, NJ.

In the midst of a news avalanche in recent days as the Senate holds hearings for cabinet positions and new information breaks out related to Russian hacking, it is easy to miss what may be the most dangerous development of the incoming Administration: reopening vaccine skepticism and linking vaccinations to autism.On Tuesday, January 10, just ten days before President-elect Trump’s inauguration, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an anti-vaccine crusader with no medical training who alleges causation between vaccines and autism, said that he accepted the position of chair to a new commission on vaccinations. In a statement from the transition team, spokeswoman Hope Hicks did not confirm Kennedy’s claims, although she did say that Trump is considering creating a commission on autism.

President-elect Trump has spoken out against vaccines multiple times in the past, although it was not discussed in great detail on the campaign trail. As is the case for determining Mr. Trump’s beliefs on many issues, Twitter provides some insight. In a tweet from 2012, Mr. Trump wrote: “I’m not against vaccinations for your children, I’m against them in 1 massive dose. Spread them out over a period of time & autism will drop!” Mr. Trump shows an alarming disregard to the facts, both in scientific research and in current medical practices.

The only study ever published that connected vaccinations to autism appeared in a 1998 issue of the Lancet and has since been completely discredited as a fraud. The study, which included only 12 handpicked cases, now serves as a textbook example of the danger of poorly executed experiments and the importance of sample size and representation in scientific studies. Returning to the warnings of a “massive dose,” a quick look at the CDC’s childhood vaccine schedule reveals that vaccines are administered in precise intervals from birth through age six.

Sadly, President-elect Trump is not alone questioning solid science. According to a national survey conducted by the National Consumers League in 2013, while most survey respondents (87 percent) say they support mandatory vaccination of school-aged children in theory, 64 percent of adults say parents should have the final say about whether or not to vaccinate. In addition, 33 percent think there’s a link between vaccines and autism.

How did we get to the point where vaccines—one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th Century that have, among other things, eradicated smallpox globally and polio in the U.S.—are being considered by some as unnecessary or even damaging to their children’s wellbeing? Two equally dangerous contributing factors at play are the distance that vaccination success has granted us from the cruel reality of these diseases and the continued stream of false claims linking vaccines with autism.

It is easy to take for granted the security we enjoy from devastating diseases like polio, which was declared eradicated in the U.S. in 1979. However, it is important to remember that in the 1950’s, polio outbreaks caused more than 15,000 cases of paralysis each year in the United States. Parents during these dark times witnessed their children becoming paralyzed and were told there was nothing doctors could do to help. We are fortunate not to have these worries today. But in order to maintain the luxury of a polio-free nation, we must continue to have full participation in vaccinations. The Disneyland California measles outbreak of 2014 is but a small example of what can happen when people choose to stop vaccinating their children. According to a CDC report, among the 110 California patients, 45 percent were completely unvaccinated and only one percent had the full three doses that are recommended.

The reason for opting out of vaccinations may have felt safe for parents because those children had been protected by the surrounding children who were fully vaccinated. This concept is known as “herd immunity.” However, when large numbers of people stop vaccinating, disease breaks into the herd, as was the case in California. Indeed, the California outbreak led pediatrician and California state Senator Dr. Richard Pan, who was honored by NCL at our 2016 Trumpeter Awards Dinner, to sponsor legislation in California doing away with the “personal exemption” option for parents who don’t want to vaccinate their children.

The CDC lists some individuals who should forego vaccination, such as people with cancer and those with compromised immune systems. Because these people have no choice but to rely on herd immunity, members of the herd who are not vaccinated because of personal choice are causing an even bigger public health risk to those who are advised not to be vaccinated.

We must not take for granted the privilege of living in a society where parents no longer have to worry about a child’s death or disability from polio, whooping cough, diphtheria, hepatitis, measles, mumps, chicken pox, or influenza. It is remarkable that we have access to enough vaccines for the entire population and at no cost to parents. We cannot sacrifice this security. For this reason, we reject the messages of those fanning the flames of false information and promote fear of these life-saving vaccines.

So what might the new Administration mean for vaccine laws? Stat News provides a useful guide to what the President-elect can and can’t do. Of course, he will not be able to control vaccination schedules, but he may appoint agency officials who raise questions about vaccine safety. This should trouble all Americans because it puts our children and all immune-compromised Americans at risk of illness and even death. NCL plans to speak out in support of mandatory vaccinations and against false connections between vaccines and autism. We will continue to remind Americans how lucky we are in 2016 not to have to worry that any of us—but especially our children—will become sick, crippled or die of diseases. We have very safe and very effective vaccines to thank for that reality.

Resolve to keep ALL your tax refund in 2017! – National Consumers League

breyault.jpgThe new year is right around the corner. Along with champagne, the Times Square ball drop and midnight kisses, a new year also means resolutions for many of us. Unfortunately, those resolutions will too often be broken before the first few weeks of January are out. Fortunately for millions of of consumers, there’s one resolution you can make and actually keep this year: file your taxes early to get the federal tax refund you are entitled to!

Why is this resolution so easy to keep, you ask? Millions of consumers qualify not just for valuable tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), but also for free tax preparation help—both online and in person. By taking advantage of these programs, consumers can get thousands of dollars in tax credits, save money on tax preparation services, and file taxes safely and securely.

Unfortunately, despite the availability of these programs, too many consumers fail to get all the money to which they’re entitled. Often, it’s because they simply don’t apply for the EITC even when they qualify. Other times, they may pay for expensive professional tax preparation services when free IRS-approved tax preparation options are available on the Internet and in local communities. And in some cases, it may be because unscrupulous tax preparers offer high-interest loans under the guise of giving consumers “early” refunds or, even worse, tax identity thieves steal refunds.

This tax year, in partnership with the Corporation for Enterprise Development and the Intuit Financial Freedom Foundation, NCL is resolving to help consumers learn more about these important tools. First, we want qualifying consumers (i.e., those with a maximum annual income of $53,930 or less, depending on tax filing status and number of children claimed) to know that they may be entitled to as much as $6,318 in tax credits thanks to the EITC. Unfortunately, the IRS estimates that 20 percent of consumers who may qualify don’t claim the EITC. The message to consumers is that even if you work, but don’t have an income high enough to be subject to federal taxes, filing a return in order to claim the EITC can potentially put thousands of dollars in your pocket. One wrinkle to keep in mind this year is that thanks to a new law aimed at reducing tax identity fraud, consumers who claim the EITC or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) will not receive their refunds until after February 15. While this may be an inconvenience for some, it gives the IRS important time to detect and prevent tax identity fraud, which unfortunately impacts hundreds of thousands of consumers every year.

Second, we want low and moderate-income consumers to know that they may be eligible for free tax preparation help from trained volunteers community thanks to the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. At local VITA sites across the country, IRS-certified volunteers can help consumers who make less than $54,000 per year, persons with disabilities, and limited English speaking taxpayers prepare and file their taxes safely, securely, and completely free of charge. For taxpayers who qualify, using a VITA can save hundreds of dollars versus going to a for-profit tax preparer. For more information, visit irs.gov/filing or download the “IRS2GO” mobile app on your smartphone or tablet.

For those that prefer to file their taxes online, we urge consumers to take advantage of the IRS’s Free File program. The Free File program, which is available to anyone making $64,000 or less in annual income, gives consumers access to more than a dozen brand-name online tax preparation services at no cost. Free state tax preparation may also be available through Free File-participating tax preparation services, depending on which state a taxpayer lives in. For more information on IRS Free File, click here.

Thanks to programs like the EITC, VITAs, and IRS Free File, it’s never been easier for qualifying consumers to keep that resolution to collect ALL of the refund that they’re entitled to. This new year, make taking advantage of these programs a resolution you CAN keep!

 

Buy union-made gifts this holiday season – National Consumers League

holiday_scams.jpgIt’s that time of year again! Holiday season is upon us, and that means more trips to the mall and online retailers for many of us. Gift buying and giving can be stressful, fun, exhilarating, and all of the above. But how many of us have stopped to consider where these products come from, and under what conditions they are being made?We here at the National Consumers League encourage buying American- and union-made goods. Consider this about the companies you are buying from: do they treat their employees fairly? Are the employees paid a living wage? Are they using child labor in the production of their goods?

We recently blogged about avoiding gifts produced by child labor this holiday season in the Huffington Post. The Department of Labor has created the Sweat and Toil smartphone app to help consumers research which products are made from child labor and forced labor.

Our friends and fellow labor advocates at Labor 411 recently released a shopping guide to help consumers shop ethically this holiday season. The guide features gift makers that support good jobs, such as Hasbro, Russell Stover, Ghiradelli Chocolates, See’s Candies, Harley Davidson, Craftsman, and Jack Daniel’s. Check out Labor 411’s website for more information on American-made gifts and familiar union-made brands that are domestically produced.

It’s important to be kind and give back during this joyous season, but it’s equally important to be ethical in our shopping choices! Thinking twice about where that present under the tree comes from could help support workers and sustain our economy.

Preying on the vulnerable – National Consumers League

cheniahd_92.jpgEarlier this November, NCL held a meeting with our Alliance Against Fraud coalition. We had presenters from the Federal Trade Commission (FCC) representing the government and AARP representing advocacy interests. If Frank Abagnale Jr. of Catch Me If You Can, and AARP’s newest spokesperson, taught us anything, it’s that scammers know their targets and their sights are almost always set on the most vulnerable consumers. Scammers also work together by distributing “sucker lists” amongst themselves that keep victims at the mercy of scammers.As AARP can attest, older Americans are frequent scam victims. Perhaps you’ve heard about the “grandparent scam.” In grandparent scam scenarios, fraudsters claim to be calling on behalf of a grandchild asking for funds to bail themselves or another loved one out of jail or out of some trouble. It was discussed that some scammers actually monitor obituaries of grandparents to find the information of a grandchild to use that name when making the call to the surviving grandparent.

They convince the grandparent that their loved one needs their money and direct the victim to a store to load money onto a gift card. Once the codes on that card are sent to the scammer, there is no turning back, the money is gone.

A new trend revealed at the meeting was that scammers are increasingly turning to iTunes, Target, and Amazon gift cards as payment methods. These cards, unlike credit or debit cards, don’t offer robust anti-fraud protection. Even wire transfer services like Western Union and MoneyGram–which have historically been a favored payment method amongst fraudsters–now have more protective anti-fraud protection protocols. But, as we’ve seen, as soon as one tactic starts to fail, scammers will undoubtedly find a new way to take advantage of victims.

In an interview with CBS News’ Carter Evans, a former scammer noted that elderly people are more “gullible, accessible, more likely to get emotionally invested and likely to do anything for their grandchildren.” It should also be noted that the strength of the bond between grandchild and grandparent will sometimes facilitate the willingness of the grandparent to not involve the child’s parents. We can keep older Americans and immigrants safe from scams that exploit them. NCL’s Fraud.org website and AARP’s Fraud Watch Network offer tips and resources for detecting and avoiding scams. For victims or family members of fraud victims, we suggest filing a complaint at Fraud.org or with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov or by phone at 1-877-382-4357.

Victory for hourly workers in four states despite the nation’s turn to the right – National Consumers League

SG_HEADSHOT.jpgWhile American voters elected a president who campaigned against all things liberal on Tuesday, four states supported minimum wage increases in the same election. These add a measure of hope that progressive agenda issues can succeed, even in a year when progressives are not elected to the highest office.The winning tallies will raise hourly wages in Colorado, Arizona, Maine, and Washington. In Washington State, the wage will rise to $13.50 by 2020 and to $12 per hour in others, in the same time frame.

According to the Wall Street Journal, that would put them on the level of what is deemed the current statewide living wage by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s living-wage calculator, which uses location-specific expenditure data to estimate the wage needed to support an individual or family in a given area.

The nonprofit Ballot Initiative Strategy Center helped to get these measures passed and by the look of things, they are very good at it. The group describes itself as “the only progressive organization that works across the many policy, organizing and political organizations, with local, state and national players to analyze and support the ballot measure landscape.”

In the one state, Arizona, that supported an increased minimum wage and also supported Donald Trump for president, education groups and about 200 local small businesses supported the measure, saying it would be better for their employees and the community as a whole. They won by a whopping 59 to 41 percent! The current minimum wage equates to about $17,000 a year. Both local and national groups put about $1.6 million into the campaign to support Prop. 206. Apparently, the restaurants and other businesses that opposed it didn’t put any money behind their campaign, which might explain the lopsided win.

The Washington state measure was backed by labor unions and worker advocates and appears to have won by a wide margin. Supporters argued that the state’s current minimum wage isn’t enough to live on, and a boost would mean workers have more to spend. They also argued that many workers don’t have access to paid sick leave, posing a public-health problem.

Business groups opposed the initiative, saying that while Seattle’s booming economy can support a high minimum wage, the rest of the state isn’t faring so well. Boosting the minimum wage in those areas could lead to higher prices and cuts in jobs and work hours, they say.

The Maine provision had a 56 percent lead when The Associated Press called the measure yesterday, while the effort in Colorado garnered around 55 percent of counted votes, compared with 44.9 percent against.

These resounding votes in support of minimum wage hikes are certainly an interesting development. They seem to show that the public largely supports fair wages for hourly workers, even in states that lean right. That’s an important message for progressives in an election year when not much went their way.

Updated November 10, 2016: Voters chose health in California and Boulder, Colorado, where measures were passed on November 8, 2016 to tax sugary beverages in hopes to decrease high rates of chronic disease and fund more public health programs.

CFPB’s structure ruled unconstitutional, but is it really? – National Consumers League

SG_HEADSHOT.jpgThe DC Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday that the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the Wall Street financial watchdog that is the brainchild of  Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), is unconstitutional.The three judge tribunal said that the CFPB will now function under direct oversight of the President, who will have the power to fire the agency’s director at will. The decision is intended to weaken the agency’s ability to wield its regulatory power independently from this or any Administration.

The lawmaker who authored the decision, U.S. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh, is a well-known conservative who once worked on President Bill Clinton’s impeachment as a Hill staffer. Judge Kavanaugh wrote that the CFPB’s “single-director structure” violates the separation of powers specified by the Constitution by vesting one person with vast power “unchecked by the President.” Prior to the decision, the President could only fire the director for very specific reasons. Supporters of the CFPB’s work predicted this court would find a reason to fault the agency and its structure.

Judge Kavanaugh wrote: “The CFPB’s concentration of enormous executive power in a single, unaccountable, unchecked Director not only departs from settled historical practice, but also poses a far greater risk of arbitrary decision-making and abuse of power, and a far greater threat to individual liberty, than does a multi-member independent agency.” This seems like a dubious basis for undermining an agency’s power as Congress created the CFPB structure very deliberately.

It is likely the federal government will ask the full DC Circuit to reconsider its ruling. And the recent wave of Obama appointees to the court may suggest a rehearing is possible. Meanwhile, Senator Warren had this to say about the decision:

“This split decision — which bizarrely relies on a mischaracterization of my original proposal for a new consumer agency — will likely be appealed and overturned. But even if it stands, the ruling makes a small, technical tweak to Dodd-Frank and does not question the legality of any other past, present, or future actions of the CFPB. The CFPB has been, and will remain, highly accountable to both Congress and the President, and continued Republican efforts to transform the agency’s structure or funding should be seen for what they are: attempts fostered by big banks to cripple an agency that has already forced them to return over $11 billion to customers who have been cheated.”

The CFPB has become such an important instrument of protection for consumers by overseeing the activities of the financial service industry that of course, given its imposition of fines and cracking down on industry misdeeds, bad actors are trying at every turn to challenge its power. It’s reminiscent of the multiple legal attacks on the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which stood up well.

The CFPB is doing exactly the job Congress intended, being the cop on the beat, and it’s fortunate that its structure and ability to police the industry won’t be seriously altered by this decision.

Proposed CFPB rules will protect consumers from predatory payday loans – National Consumers League

payday_loan_icon.jpgWritten by Elese Chen, NCL Intern

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is taking action against payday loans through a series of new regulations that will limit certain lending and fee practices. The proposal aims to protect borrowers from falling into endless cycles of debt by making predatory lenders liable for their excessively high interest rates.Payday loans are short term loans that are usually paid off on one’s next payday. Such loans are targeted towards borrowers with low credit scores and unreliable incomes who may live from paycheck to paycheck.

According to the CFPB, the average annual rate for a payday loan is approximately 390 percent. In contrast, most credit cards have APRs between 12 and 30 percent. Payday loans with APRs in the triple digits can be crippling for borrowers who are using them to cover basic living expenses such as rent or utilities. NCL supports CFPB’s proposal for more stringent regulation in the payday loan market.

CFPB’s proposal includes the following regulations:

1. A “full payment test” would require lenders, before handing out a loan, to determine whether the borrower can afford to pay the loan back while still being able to cover basic living expenses.

2.  The number of times a borrower can roll over a loan would be limited to two. According to the CFPB, more than 80 percent of payday loans are rolled over within two weeks and more than 50 percent are rolled over as many as 10 times. The cap on roll over loans is an effort to end what CFPB calls “debt traps.” In addition, lenders would have to adhere to a 60-day wait period to refinance a loan.

3. Penalty fees would be regulated to reduce overdraft fees that come from unsuccessful withdrawals from an account. Borrowers usually provide lenders with their checking account information so that payment can be automatically collected within two weeks. However, insufficient funds in an account can lead to hefty fees from both the borrower’s bank and the lender. Under the new proposal, lenders must provide written notice three days prior to withdrawing from an account.

According to CFPB Director Richard Cordray, “Too many short-term and longer-term loans are made based on a lender’s ability to collect and not on a borrower’s ability to repay. The proposals we are considering would require lenders to take steps to make sure consumers can pay back their loans.”

The proposed regulations could save consumers from taking on burdensome debt. Some argue, however, that they are not strict enough. Nick Bourke, director of small dollar loans at the Pew Charitable Trusts, suggests that the amount that can be lent should be limited. The proposal set forth by CFPB is currently open to public comment.

Wall Street CEO pay is outrageous, needs stricter regulations – National Consumers League

money_hands_icon.jpgWritten by Elese Chen, NCL Intern

According to Fortune, the combined CEO salaries of America’s six biggest banks totaled a whopping $123 million in 2015. With an average pay of $20.5 million per executive, that is estimated to be 455 times the salary of the average American worker. While millions of Americans are still struggling to overcome the financial crisis, Wall Street CEOs have continued to stockpile greater wealth over time. The average pay for Wall Street CEOs rose nearly 10 percent last year in contrast to the meager 1.6 percent increase in wages for the average American worker.As a counterweight to this phenomenon, Wall Street regulators released a proposal to limit how top executives are paid at major financial institutions. The new restrictions would postpone bonuses for the highest paid executives from three years to four years. If the regulations go into effect, banks would have to rescind bonuses to those bankers who have caused vast financial losses as a result of their risky behavior.

In 2010, President Obama signed the “Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act,” in response to the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis when government funds were used to bail out major American banks. The new regulations are an extension of the Act, and with the upcoming presidential election, the public is alarmed once again at the lack of stringent Wall Street regulations.

As an organization committed to consumer protection, NCL supports these stronger regulations. The public should not be forced to bail out Wall Street for irresponsible and risky behavior.  According to Rick Metsger, vice chairman at the National Credit Union Administration, “Congress, and the American people, want senior executives at large financial institutions held accountable if their desire for personal enrichment leads to decision-making that results in material losses.”

The way in which executive pay packages were designed before the financial crisis unfortunately incentivized bankers to take unnecessary risks. Bankers were easily drawn to short term gains despite the overarching losses in the long term. By lengthening the time that banking industry executives can get bonuses, the new regulations will ensure that top executives would be responsible for the longer term outcomes. Bankers would also be susceptible to revocation of their bonuses for seven years should they be found guilty of improprieties that lead to major losses.

Enforcing Wall Street pay regulations is necessary to prevent another financial crisis and it is one step further towards fighting the economic inequality that faces our nation today.

Borrower Defense to Repayment rule to protect students from fraudulent schools – National Consumers League

grads_icon.jpgWritten by Elese Chen, NCL Intern

Countless colleges offer enticing promises such as remarkably high job-placement rates, yet, too often new graduates fail to see these promises being fulfilled. Higher education institutions are now being held accountable for what may amount to fraudulent behavior by the “Borrower Defense to Repayment” law.After the collapse of the for-profit chain of Corinthian Colleges, more and more students are turning their attention to this regulation. Under the law, students who were found to have been defrauded by their schools are eligible for a discharge of their federal direct loans. Over 25,000 claims have been filed with the Department of Education since then, and most of them are from former Corinthian College students.

The current regulation is based on the renewal of the Higher Education Act by Congress, originally created in the early 1990s, which allowed student-loan borrowers to make a claim for “acts or omissions of an institution.” The process of reviewing the growing number of claims has made it obvious that the current rule is too ambiguous. In an effort to update and strengthen the rule, the Department of Education has proposed new regulations to better protect students and taxpayers from fraudulent behavior by colleges found to be making fraudulent claims.

The draft proposal includes a process that would consolidate debt relief for groups of students who were defrauded. Institutions with poor loan outcomes would be required to warn prospective and current students by using clear, direct language. To prevent financially risky schools from escaping responsibility, the new proposal would deny schools the use of pre-dispute arbitration clauses and class action waivers.

A total of 58 advocacy organizations, including NCL, signed a letter to Education Secretary John King, expressing their support for stronger regulations. The following action items were suggested in the letter:

1)    Full loan relief for defrauded borrowers,
2)    Automatic loan relief when there is sufficient evidence of school wrongdoing,
3)    The federal standard for relief as a floor and not a ceiling; the latter process eliminates current borrower eligibility for relief.

In addition, the letter recommends tightening loopholes regarding the use of class action waivers to bar students in court, improving warnings to students regarding concerns about their school, and eliminating new time limits on borrower relief. The letter also recommends that decision-makers involved in borrower relief determinations remain independent.

NCL joined with colleagues in supporting this series of steps because we believe that stronger regulations are imperative to protect students from fraudulent activities and from claims rampant in the for-profit college world. We also want the process to be simpler and more transparent for eligible students seeking relief from fraudulent claims so that they can receive the loan discharges that they deserve.

McDonald’s employees fight for fair wages – National Consumers League

gavel_icon.jpgBy Hannah Rudder, NCL Intern

We were preparing a blog on the issue of McDonald’s workers forming a class to sue McDonald’s when we came across the fact that the fast food chain reported an increase in net income from the first quarter of 2015 to the first quarter of 2016 and attributed this increase to the minimum wage raise. McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook cites lower employee turnover and higher customer satisfaction as a result of the higher wages. While raising the minimum wage has not helped every company increase profits, and organizations like the Chamber of Commerce argue it will lead to higher unemployment and a decrease in profits, McDonald’s shows that it has not hurt the company’s bottom line. Based on the experience of McDonald’s, it appears that paying a living wage is good for the company, the economy, and the worker-and other large chains should follow suit.In relation to McDonald’s wage news, three weeks ago, a District Court in California certified a class of past and present McDonald’s employees to bring certain wage-related claims against the fast food giant. This is the first time a judge has ruled that McDonald’s employees can band together and bring claims against the corporation, rather than just the individual franchisee. We loudly applaud the ruling. Historically, McDonald’s workers have never been granted the right to unionize, and this recent court decision gives workers the ability to petition one controlling body as a group.

Similarly, this decision parts with McDonald’s long-held stance that it is not responsible for franchise workers because it is not a joint employer; McDonald’s argues the franchisee is the sole employer. McDonald’s asserts that it is not fair to hold the franchiser accountable for franchisee’s employment practices. The court did not hold that McDonald’s was a joint employer, but instead agreed with the employees’ ostensible agency theory that posits that the employees are agents of McDonald’s.

The class of current and former employees initially brought 13 causes of action against McDonald’s and its franchisee. These claims included a large negligence claim, failure to pay overtime, failure to pay minimum wage, failure to give appropriate meal or rest breaks, and failure to reimburse employees for time required to maintain uniforms. The court ruled, however, that this class can only bring the claims of unpaid overtime, maintenance of uniforms, and miscalculated wages against McDonald’s; the other claims, including the negligence claim, were dismissed.

The group of employees settled with the franchisee for $700,000. This settlement means that if the class of employees proves McDonald’s violated the California labor laws, then McDonald’s will be liable for all of the damages under those claims.

The implications of this District Court decision certifying former and current employees as a class has far reaching implications, not only for McDonald’s, but for the whole fast food industry. This decision opens the door for fast food employees to introduce labor lawsuits against chains like McDonald’s, rather than just against a single franchisee. As the New York Times reported: “The district judge in California has now given lawyers for the McDonald’s employees the chance to prove in court what should be evident: that McDonald’s is responsible for ensuring that pay is fair and adequate and, as such, must be accountable when workers in its restaurants are stiffed.” If McDonald’s is found responsible for the wage violations, the fast food company will have to change its ways, and be far more aggressive in ensuring that its franchisees are paying workers fairly and adequately, and that the company is abiding by the laws related to all employee wages, hours, and benefits.