Last month, McDonald’s was slapped with seven class-action lawsuits in the US, accusing the company of stealing employee wages by, amongst other things, forcing them to work off the clock. Now in Canada, McDonald’s is being accused of “slavery” for forcing foreign-born employees to live in a corporate apartment by automatically deducting the exorbitant rent from their paychecks.
The accusations come from McDonald’s employees from Belize, who came to Edmonton, Alberta to work at the restaurant. “When we arrived at the airport, they said, ‘We already have an apartment for you,’ so at that point we already know we don’t have a choice of where to live,” said Jaime Montero, a former McDonald’s employee who has been most vocal about the claims. Canada’s Minister of Employment and Social Development is looking into the case.
The apartment was located in downtown Edmonton, but the employees worked at a McDonald’s on the southern outskirts of the city. It took them about an hour and a half to get to work via public transportation. Five people lived in the two-bedroom, 2,500 sq. ft. apartment, which rented for $2,143 per month. Records show that, twice a month, the company took $254 out of the employees' paychecks to pay the rent. (Yes, that adds up to more than $2,500 a month; McDonald's did not pay utilities, and McDonald's had no explanation for what happened to the extra money.)
The workers said they earned at most $750 per month. The average monthly salary in Canada is about $3,700.
“It was like modern day slavery,” said Montero, who was fired in November for his online comments about the company.
VICE News reached out to several McDonald’s in southern Edmonton, but none had any comment on the situation, and one told us that she'd been specifically told not to comment on it. She referred us to the corporate office in Canada. Oddly, the representative to whom we were transferred said no one there had heard about the allegations, but that they would look into it.
McDonald’s is the most hated company in America.