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‘No Poach’ Deals for Fast-Food Workers Face Scrutiny (nytimes.com)
124 points by leephillips 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 65 comments

This is despicable. It's one thing for firms to do this for high paying white collar jobs (like the SV no poaching scandal), but to do this to people making poverty wages is just awful.

It's really odd too - what's the advantage?

Not to be offensive but these people do low skilled work. You can onboard another employee relatively quickly.

A part of me would think it's there to avoid turnover costs because I imagine these businesses have decent turnover given the low quality job and pay, why not bounce to a new job if this one sucks or is too stressful?

> Proponents of the restrictions argue that they protect restaurants’ investments in training in an industry where employee turnover is high.

Well, the companies are arguing they are doing it to protect their training investment, so apparently they think the onboarding process is not that simple.

It is a bullshit argument anyway; you keep your ‘investment’ from walking away by paying them a decent wage.

And offering decent conditions.

Short notice shift changes and lazy/incompetent supervisors are examples of why someone might leave for an otherwise similar job.

even if the place you're moving to is equally as bad, a change of psychological scenery can help out temporarily. if your old assistant manager liked to creep you out by staring at you across the room for minutes at a time, maybe your new one enjoys torment by unwanted touching. at least its different.

It’s all about suppressing wages.

Also, in some settings finding reliable low wage workers with transportation is hard. When I was in high school in the early 90s. I worked for a sandwich/coffee place that would pay a $1000 bonus to people who could operate the cappuccino machine and stay through Labor Day.

The unemployment rate is below 4%. I'm not saying you can't find someone, but the labor market is tightening and eventually gasp employees may demand more than minimum wage. By removing their ability to change jobs, you prevent them from even threatening to quit.

Except they're not prevented from quitting. If they work at McDonald's, they can walk down the street to Burger King, just not another McDonald's location. To me that seems like enough freedom for employees that I'd want to see compelling evidence that being unable to switch to another location of the same fast food place (which would presumably offer identical wages) actually harms employees.

What kind of world do you live in where you think the employee needs to provide evidence that they are being harmed before they are allowed to seek a new job?

Companies can enter into contracts with employees to prevent them from going to other employers but unless they offer some sort of consideration you are walking down the path towards indentured servitude and slavery

They don't offer identical wages. The McDonald's by my house offers $17/hr starting pay. The McDonald's by my work ~7 miles away offers $13/hr starting pay.

That's about a 30% raise for an extra 15 minutes of commute each day.

This is the kind of evidence I was talking about (and not presented in the article).

Not all jobs are the same. If you read the article, it mentions a person trying to get a better position at a different location. That means an entry level employee couldn’t take a manager job at another franchise.

Why that way? Why shouldn't the employers have to prove that they have a significant need before severely restricting employee freedom?

70s conservatives: "If you don't like your job, get an education"

80s conservatives: "If you don't like your job, quit and get another one"

90s conservatives: "If you don't like your job, start your own business"

Neo conservatives: "If you don't like your job, I need to see compelling evidence that you are being harmed"

Neoconservativism places a lot of importance in the free market, I don’t see how contracts that prevent people from seeking work could be labeled as neoconservative policy.

The free market for the business owner

I've never seen evidence that those arguing for a freer market want such for the employee

Then I think you might not be very familiar with economics, because that’s the market theory of wage determination, which is simply supply and demand applied to the labor market. Can you provide any examples of conservatives who argue against the existence of a competitive labor market?

The guy up above who thinks employees need to show proof that they are harmed before these restrictive convenants are prevented.

I thought we were talking about neoconservative economists and policy makers, not random and anonymous online commenters.

Because the importance they place in the free market isn't genuine? It's only used when it benefits them. When it comes to employees, they want the furthest thing from a free market.


It prevents wage competition.

We had no poach deals with other franchises when I was a hiring manager. The idea was:

1. Other franchise owners knew each other by name and would call each other up when they found their employee were hired by us. Enough harassment and you tire or worry that they won't help you in situations like running out of product or selling/purchasing stores from you

2. The kind of person looking to sell themselves often were often trouble and weren't what we were poking for. Signal to noise ratio was terrible in these situations

3. Since we paid so little, a wage war was a sort of Mutually Assured Destruction and good employees were worth much more than we were paying them. Why chance that?

4. Training a new employee was a lot of time and money - a week with another employee just to make them somewhat competent in their station and a month so they could reliably hold their own. Then do that for every station the employee was expected to work (5 - 6 for a non-kitchen employee)

I only "poached" if I was sure I would withstand a tongue lashing from the office and I was almost told to stop the hiring process on one after I had offered them a job.

Glad I'm out of that industry

How is that not illegal collusion?

The franchises have set themselves up as separate companies for their own benefit, but when it would benefit employees they work in concert?

Point #3 is exactly why the law should have zero tolerance for this type of agreement.

Wage. Suppression.

Wage theft alone is the largest form of theft in America. Wage suppression is just as significant, and carried out through a huge variety of means, many of them legally questionable at best.

Not to be offensive but these people do low skilled work. You can onboard another employee relatively quickly.

Not if you can’t find anyone willing to work. I doubt the teenagers I see driving to their minimum wage jobs in decent cars are doing it out of necessity. Many are just doing it for work experience.

I’m sure their are other high priced areas where the people who work minimum wage jobs aren’t doing it to support themselves and their families - especially in places that are inaccessible via public transportation.

NPR Planet Money The Indicator podcast had a great segment the other day on why teens aren’t working summer jobs anymore.


> I doubt the teenagers I see driving to their minimum wage jobs in decent cars are doing it out of necessity. Many are just doing it for work experience.

They are doing it because as soon as they got a paying job they went and blew all their money on a loan to get a stupidly expensive car, and now have no choice.

I think you aren't seeing the GP's point. The family bought their teenager the decent car, because the family can afford that kind of expense, which is the signal that there is no real financial necessity.

The point is that people buy themselves absurdly expensive vehicles on credit. Assuming everyone with one of those vehicles had it bought for them is absurd, and reads as an indictment of the author's high socioeconomic status.

Outer appearance of a vehicle also means very little - my motorcycle looks great, but it has 50k miles and cost me less than a lot of the commuter bicycles I see people on.

The point is that people buy themselves absurdly expensive vehicles on credit. Assuming everyone with one of those vehicles had it bought for them is absurd, and reads as an indictment of the author's high socioeconomic status.

People making the median household income of around $60K can reasonable afford to either by their kid oa car or give them a hand me down and buy themselves a car.

Teenagers working part time making mininum wage would barely be able to afford the car insurance that can easily run $200 a month let alone the car. I use to pick up my son from high school and you would see kids driving around in newish SUVs and older semi luxury cars. At the time, I was living in a city where the mean household income was $137K a year and the median was $110K.

These same kids would drive over to local fast food place to work.

Heck, my parents were a teacher and a factory worker not exactly extremely “high economic status” and they bought me a low end low mileage car my junior year in high school. They were paying at least $500 a month between the car note and car insurance in the early 90s.

But you don’t have to have a high income to make it not worthwhile from a financial standpoint to have teenagers who either don’t work or just work for fun money or to pay a token amount toward their car note and car insurance.

There was no way my little part time job at Radio Shack was going to do that.

But to reiterate my main point, if you have a business that depends on low skilled labor in an expensive area and public transportation is poor, you will have a hard time finding employees. The teenagers who live close by don’t have to work and the people who would take the jobs can’t affordably get there.

Can teenagers even sign contracts to take on debt until they are 18?

> You can onboard another employee relatively quickly.

If that were true then there would be no point in creating this regime. If you want a higher wage as an Arbys employee, you need to jump to McDonalds or Popeyes or anywhere that's not Arbys. They wouldn't have bothered to make these deals unless there was some economic advantage for Arbys chains to hire workers from other Arbys restaurants.

Nonsense, it's an asymmetrical market. The Arbys has a standard training regimen and brings new people on board every other month; they fire the ones that don't pull through. For the employee, going to a new employer is a major life change that will happen maybe a dozen times in their life and the training is exhausting work.

I'm generally libertarian-minded but I see the value in California's employee-friendly restrictions on noncompete clauses. I don't see why this shouldn't be extended, as much as possible, up and down the payscale.

"If that were true then there would be no point in creating this regime."

You're assuming the reason is always purely rational or economical. This is about control, pure and simple.

Maybe the suppression of wages due of inhibiting mobility outweighs it?

There's that...but like any job. Some people really are better at it and put more effort into it than others. Sure you can fill a position quickly I imagine, but finding someone reliable and hard working I imagine is just as difficult as any other job, if not more because I'm sure you get a lot more low quality applicants. If you actually do get someone that works hard and does well at a job like that i imagine you probably try to keep them.

It's been many years since I worked in a fast food place, I'm gonna add my grocery store work in there too because it's fairly similar skill wise, but there were people there who'd been at these places for a long time, like most of their lives, they were treated really well, paid well and pretty much allowed to do whatever the fuck they wanted. A few of the employees like that at a grocery store I worked at in a small town were hunted and hired by a competing grocery store. Even me when I worked there, I was only there for two years, but I got a bunch of raises while I was there, was given a bunch of responsibilities, got to choose my shifts and was told when I left if I ever needed a job I'd always have one there just because I didn't fuck around and worked hard while I was there.

This is quite different than Apple and Google refusing to cross hire. It’s not even McD and Wendys’s not cross hiring. It’s within the same company to a different franchise so moving from McD on Avenue A to one on Avenue C.

Different franchises are not the same company, they are different companies with a shared relationship to a third company.

Franchise agreements typically include non compete regions between franchises, ie you can’t just pick up and move to a different region that may be within the territory of a different franchise. Having similar terms restricting the hiring of workers at another franchise does not seem outlandish.

Except one affects the actual franchisee making the agreement, while the other affects workers who are not even aware these terms exist.

It does from the perspective of the workers.

Legally, two different Arby's locations are independent competing companies, but in practice they act as extensions of the parent company. (Similar to the "independent contractor" nonsense going on in the "sharing economy".) So we're really talking about poaching within a company and there's pretty good precedent that companies are allowed to have these kinds of internal rules.

>Legally, two different Arby's locations are independent competing companies, but in practice they act as extensions of the parent company.

I suspect that Arby's would dispute that vociferously in court if it suited them.

As you noted there is a legal slant to this and that's all that matters if we're hand-waving away ethics and morality.

From an ethical perspective, the fact that all Arby's locations pay the same doesn't sound that outrageous, but I don't work in fast food so maybe it's really a tragedy.

The whole point is that they don't; that workers have been barred from seeking jobs that would pay better at another franchise.

Unfortunately every company operates that way; once you accept a lowball offer (which you usually don't even know is low due to salary secrecy) you can never get out of the hole except by quitting.

... or getting a competing offer.

What if one is closer to your residence? What if it is closer to your kid's school? What if you have an abusive or terrible boss at one?

And nobody mentioned a tragedy but you.

So, these terms are horrible for low wage workers, but these are also bad for tech workers.

Does anyone know any any groups in NY agitating to ban these terms for all workers? I would be quite interested in participating in such a group. Bonus points if anyone knows groups interested in restricting the rights employers have to IP employees create outside of work hours/scope.

I dunno about this specific issue, but the DSA are probably among the most active proponents for labor rights issues and could definitely connect you with other people working to combat this. I’d hit up the local chapter.

Only one I can think of is NYC-DSA ( https://www.socialists.nyc/our-strategy/ )

> The restrictions, often referred to as no-poach clauses, do not stop workers from switching from, say, an Arby’s store to a Wendy’s, but can keep an employee of one Arby’s location from taking a job at another.

That’s an interesting twist.

especially since alot of fast food spots are not owned by the fast food company, they are owned by the franchisee who in all senses of the word, except for meeting xyz standards of the brand, operates an independent business entity.

next thing they will do is say that employees of one franchise of a conglomerate brand cannot leave and go work for another franchise of the same conglomerate brand (which happens to own 5 different brands, including ChickenLicious, BuildaBurger, SteakMachine, FreshCrunchy, and SugarCoffee)

a question arose in a couple places about the difficulty of onboarding. I worked at a fast food restaurant for 4.5 years (roughly 3K hours) during high school and college.

When I started, I was asked directly not to switch to another store without letting them know. It wasn’t a threat, just a courtesy. I believe the given reason had something to do with anti-poaching.

Just a guess, but I could see a group of 6 people at one store saying “let’s go over to the other store” together. Losing one person isn’t a big deal, losing 6 people from a shift is an expensive pain. I doubt it happens often, but it doesn’t feel like a stretch to me.

As far as onboarding goes, my job performance continued to improve for at least 2 years. They were getting one hell of a bargain at $8.80 back in 2007. When I started, it was mostly washing dishes. A few years in, our team could push 130 cars and $1,400 through our drive thru in an hour.

Yeah, but those 6 people from one shift aren't all going to up and jump ship at the same time for shits and giggles. If they're doing that, then it's because they're feeling mistreated.

Companies have way too much power these days. What kind of person comes up with this? How can you treat low wage employees like this? Have these people no couth?

My Grandmother would mention what things were like in the 1920s and 1930's and none of this surprises me at all.

As bad as things are, we don't have employees working insane hours, in horrible conditions, for poverty wages and being rewarded by losing limbs now a days.

OH wait.... [1]

1: https://www.propublica.org/article/trashed-inside-the-deadly...

when I worked in fast food, many employees already worked two jobs at two separate restaurants.

This sort of systematic wage suppression is why America is cruising towards socialism. You can crush the workers only so much, then they rebel.

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