Mar 05 2013
Brazil is home to more McDonald’s than any other place in the Western Hemisphere, aside from the US. The federal police in Brazil recently announced that they have been investigating McDonald’s for the past several months over allegations that its workers have been laboring in “slave-like conditions.” The case was announced last week, in response to a 17-year-old girl’s complaint, filed in October, that she had worked at a São Paulo McDonald’s for eight months without receiving any pay.
The girl testified that when she started at McDonald’s, she had been told to open a bank account to receive her salary via direct deposit. When she gave them her savings-account information, the manager told her to open a checking account. The girl opened the checking account but claims that management continued to make excuses not to pay her. Her mother, Maria das Graças Nonato, initially thought her daughter was lying to her about her earnings but eventually took her to meet with union representatives, who brought the allegations to the federal police.
Antonio Carlos Lacerda, a lawyer from the Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union, says, “The police are focusing on this individual case because the girl has agreed to testify, but this is not an isolated incident. We know of many other similar situations, and this is why they have decided to step in. I believe that when the investigation is concluded, they will prove that there is a systematic pattern of this kind of behavior through the entire McDonald’s system.”
This incident is one more setback for McDonald’s in a long line of labor issues in Brazil. Last year, there were 1,790 cases against the company in the state of São Paulo alone for claims ranging from firing pregnant women in order to avoid paying maternity leave, to overtime violations and failure to pay the minimum wage. According to the news magazine Brasil de Fato, one of the reasons that McDonald’s has gotten away with so many labor crimes is that they focus on hiring teenagers from poor backgrounds who have little job experience and don’t know their rights.
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