Our View: Shame on fast-food corporations for no-poach practices

Shapiro Shapiro -

Chalk one up for the little guy.

And chalk another one up for Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who during his two-plus years in office has demonstrated a penchant for bringing to light and fighting for issues that benefit the little guy. (See the grand jury report on Catholic clergy abuse, his recent lawsuit against health giant UPMC, et al.)

We’re referring today to Shapiro’s recently announced agreement with some major fast-food players, including Dunkin’, Arby’s, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, and Little Caesars.

Unbeknownst to just about everyone, including the employees covered by these clauses, these companies and others instituted “no-poach” agreements concerning labor at their franchise locations.

Say, for the sake of an example, you worked for a hypothetical Arby’s restaurant in Pringle and wanted to get a job at a hypothetical Arby’s in nearby Edwardsville because workers there enjoyed a slightly higher wage.

You would not be able to even be interviewed, let alone hired, because of the no-poach clauses that franchisees had to abide by, according to Shapiro.

That artificial curb on employee movement sounds downright unfair, even cruel.

So Shapiro’s office along with attorneys general from about a dozen other states began investigating last summer.

Less than a year later, Dunkin’, Arby’s, Five Guys and Little Caesars announced they were dropping their no-poach provisions and will not include them in any franchise agreements moving forward.

In addition, they will notify Shapiro’s office or other AGs in states where they do business if one of their franchisees tries to restrict an employee moving to another location using the no-poach provision.

Bottom line, for these four franchisors, no poach is no more.

And that is indeed, as Shapiro called it, a “major win for workers.”

That’s especially true for those already making low wages.

“No one expects the person who knows the secret recipe at Coca-Cola to be allowed to jump over to Pepsi,” said Shapiro in an opinion piece he penned on the no-poach issue last year. “But that isn’t who we’re talking about. We’re talking about people who often earn minimum wage, doing work like taking food orders or making pizzas. There is no legitimate business reason for no-poach agreements.”

We would disagree with our attorney general on one point. There is definitely a “legitimate business reason” for such clauses, and that’s to help keep wages low. That’s not a criticism of the way anyone does business, just a recognition of how our capitalist system works in some instances.

We thought about praising these four fast-food chains for agreeing to drop their no-poach tactics, but that doesn’t seem proper since they ran with these clauses for so long and would’ve most likely kept them in place if not for some very powerful people getting on their backs.

So, to Dunkin’, Arby’s, Five Guys and Little Caesars, we say this: It’s about time.

Shapiro notes that investigations continue into Burger King, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and Panera Bread.

If those corporations also engage in no-poach practices, we would ask the AG to keep after them hard and demand changes.

Everyone deserves a shot at a fair wage.

Shame on those who create obstacles in that pursuit.

— Times Leader