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Leading National Chains in Employee Benefits

Leading National Chains in Employee Benefits

Chipotle recently made headlines when they announced they were to begin to offer paid sick leave and other benefits, including vacation time and college tuition reimbursement, to non-salaried employees. This is great news, yet it underscores a disturbing trend in the restaurant industry to deny employees basic worker protections. One would hope those involved in preparing and serving food were not encouraged to come into work sick, after all.

Which leaves the question, which national chains are up to par? There are many local restaurants and a few regional chains which are proving that paying a living wage is economically feasible. For instance, Michigan’s Moo Cluck Moo pays entry level workers $15 an hour. Meanwhile, Zazie, in San Francisco, not only pays $15 an hour and provides paid sick leave, but also provides health insurance and a retirement plan.

Yet few national chains provide living wages to their employees, let alone meet the $15 an hour wage advocates of the Fight for 15 are demanding.

These chains for years have been making a conscious effort to pay their employees a decent wage and provide their employees with benefits:

  1. If you’re looking to get your ice cream fix, Ben & Jerry’s pays their entry-level employees $15.97 an hour, according to a company spokeswoman. That figure is based on the living wage in Vermont, and it’s almost double the federal minimum wage. However, Ben & Jerry’s in now also the focus of a Milk with Dignity campaign over withheld wages of farm workers, an important reminder that restaurant workers are not the only workers of concern in a restaurant’s supply chain. As a result of the campaign, Ben & Jerry's has agreed to negotiate to improve labor standards for migrant workers in their dairy supply chain.

  2. In-N-Out, a burger chain dotting California and the Southwest with 280 stores, has started their employees out at a wage several dollars above the minimum wage. Currently In-N-Out employees start out at a wage of $10.50 in most areas. New employees also have for years “received benefits that included paid vacations, a 401(k) retirement plan with matching company contributions, and discounted medical, dental, and vision coverage.”

  3. Shake Shack is sometimes described as the East Coast’s equivalent of In-N-Out. The classic burger joint starts out their employees in New York City with a wage of $10 an hour and those outside the city with a wage of $9.50 an hour. And every month it gives its employees a percentage of the company’s top-line sales, moving the average wage to $10.70 an hour. Shake Shack also pays about 70 percent of employees’ health care premiums and matches contributions to their 401(k)s.

ROC United has created an app Diner’s Guide to Ethical Eating that rates chains on their employee benefits. The goal is not necessarily to boycott restaurants who don’t provide sufficient benefits, but to encourage customers to be aware of how a company treats their employees, and to talk to management if the company’s benefits are not up to par. In recent years it has become common for customers to question management how food is raised and sourced. And companies have largely responded. Customers shouldn’t be afraid to similarly question how workers are treated.

In many ways larger chains are sorely lagging behind what smaller chains and local restaurants are doing to provide their employees with benefits. What restaurants in your area are providing their employees with benefits and living wage?

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