New York City’s fast-food industry has served as a laboratory for the nation’s labor movement for the last several years.
Its workers were the first to stage rallies demanding a minimum wage of $15 an hour. Then, they pressed for changes in the way national restaurant chains set their work schedules.
Now, they are asking the City Council to shield them from being fired without a valid reason. That protection, the sort of job security that unions usually bargain for, would be a first for a city to provide to workers in a specific industry, labor law experts said.
City Councilman Brad Lander said he planned to introduce a bill on Wednesday that would require fast-food businesses to show “just cause” for firing workers and give them a chance to appeal dismissals through arbitration.
Mr. Lander, a Democrat from Brooklyn, said he was responding to surveys of fast-food workers indicating that “there’s a substantial percentage of employees that have been fired unfairly.” One woman said she was fired from a Chipotle restaurant for not smiling enough.
But restaurant industry officials and lawyers who represent the industry said the proposal was just the latest stratagem employed by a national union that has been trying to organize fast-food workers ever since they first staged protests for better wages and working conditions in 2012.
The Service Employees International Union adopted the workers’ Fight for 15 campaign, which spurred New York and other cities and states to raise minimum wages to $15 an hour and in some places higher.
“We’re always skeptical about any efforts by the S.E.I.U., that they’re really anything more than a front to help them increase their dues-paying membership and their political agenda,” said Matthew Haller, an executive with the International Franchise Association in Washington.
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