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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, July 10, 2018 1:00 am

Fast-food poaching at issue

Attorneys general group say workers, wages hindered

Jeff Stein | Washington Post

Eleven state attorneys general are launching an investigation of contracts at fast-food chains that prevent their workers from switching franchises, targeting a practice some economists say drags down wages for millions of Americans.

The group will send letters to eight fast-food companies – including Burger King, Dunkin' Donuts, Panera and Wendy's – requesting information about “no-poaching” agreements that bar or restrict managers from hiring workers at another store in the same chain.

“No-poach agreements unfairly limit the freedom of fast-food and other low-wage workers to seek promotions and earn a better living,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, whose office is leading the probe.

No-poaching clauses have come under increasing scrutiny by Democrats and some policy experts over the past several years as wage growth remains a persistent weakness for an otherwise strong and growing economy.

Economists say barring employees from switching between chain locations unfairly prevents them from bargaining for higher wages, while businesses maintain they are necessary for local firms to recoup the costs of their investments in personnel.

“Many workers only learn these agreements exist when they are denied the chance to advance to a better job, earn more money or obtain family-friendly schedule options” at a different franchise location, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro noted.

Along with Massachusetts, the group also includes attorneys general in California, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.