probe launched into mcdonald’s and chuck e cheese over worker exploitation
McDonald’s, the renowned fast food giant, has twice awarded its highest franchisee honor, the Golden Arch award, to Prince Mishaal bin Khalid al-Saud. Prince Mishaal controls over 200 McDonald’s outlets in Saudi Arabia. In a 2018 interview with CEO Magazine, he attributed his business’s success to creating a positive environment for employees.
In recent years, major global brands, including McDonald’s, have faced allegations of labor abuses in their franchises across the Gulf region. Reports have emerged of migrant workers enduring harsh and unfair conditions while toiling in the fast food industry, raising concerns about labor trafficking.
Harsh Realities for Migrant Workers:
The individuals who shared information for this inquiry held diverse employment arrangements. Typically, employees working at McDonald’s, Chuck E Cheese, and the UK based InterContinental Hotels Group in the Gulf region are either directly employed by franchise operators or other local partners.
Macrae Lee and Buddhiman Sunar, both migrant workers from Asia, paint a starkly different picture. They claim to have faced grueling and unjust conditions while working at McDonald’s locations owned and operated by Riyadh International Catering Corp (RICC), owned by Prince Mishaal.
Lee, originally from the Philippines, alleges that RICC’s store managers compelled him to work up to 22 hour shifts, including hundreds of hours of unpaid overtime. He asserts that he was denied necessary days off, even when he was unwell. When he attempted to leave his job, a manager allegedly withheld essential paperwork, rendering him jobless and dependent on charity for sustenance.
Sunar, who hails from Nepal, reports paying a hefty fee to an employment agent to secure a position at the prince’s fast-food establishments. Once in Riyadh, he alleges that he worked exhausting 13- to 14-hour shifts without breaks. Throughout his employment, he claims managers subjected him to verbal abuse, including derogatory comments questioning his intelligence. If he stepped outside the restaurant, he alleges he was required to complete an “incident report” detailing his actions.
Allegations Extend Beyond McDonald’s:
Lee and Sunar are not alone in their allegations. Nearly 100 migrant laborers from Asia have come forward, sharing similar stories of oppressive labor practices at franchises of well known American and British brands. These brands include McDonald’s, Amazon, Chuck E Cheese, and the InterContinental Hotels Group. The reported practices align with the characteristics often associated with labor trafficking, as defined by both the United States and the United Nations. Labor trafficking typically involves the use of force, coercion, or deception to exploit workers.
Corporate Responsibility Under Scrutiny:
Human Rights Watch emphasizes that multinational corporations have a responsibility to uphold UN human rights standards and monitor their global operations and supply chains. This responsibility extends even when a component of their operations involves franchise holders rather than company owned branches. The call for greater transparency and accountability echoes the need to ensure the welfare and rights of all workers, especially in industries where migrant labor is prevalent.
Allegations of labor abuses in the Gulf-based franchises of major brands like McDonald’s serve as a stark reminder of the importance of scrutinizing global supply chains and ensuring the protection of workers’ rights. As these allegations come to light, it underscores the urgent need for multinational corporations to take responsibility for the working conditions of employees throughout their network, no matter where they are located.