Restaurants are about to draw more fire as employers

Working Lunch: The violation of child-labor laws by a few bad actors are tarnishing the whole business' image as a place to work. And the volume is about to go way up.

As expected, a few blundering employers have tarred the whole restaurant industry as an unsafe place for teenagers to work, according to this week’s Working Lunch podcast. And the outrage directed at the business last week may be just the beginning, agreed co-hosts Joe Kefauver and Franklin Coley.

The pair of veteran lobbyists recounted how union-backed groups like One Fair Wage and Fight for $15 and a Union are depicting a handful of teen labor law violations as proof the restaurant industry is routinely exploiting minors. The accusations were underscored by recent headlines of 10-year-olds working at hazardous jobs late at night in several franchised McDonald’s units.

The groups are attempting to stoke public outrage through protests and a publicity campaign that paints the National Restaurant Association as a promoter of child abuse. Kefauver and Coley noted that the labor advocacy groups even tried to disrupt the association’s annual gathering last week in Chicago.

The noise, coupled with emotions roused by the involvement of young teens, is likely to focus more attention on the situation by regulators and the public.

“We can expect regulators to be giving this increased scrutiny in the months ahead,” said Coley, who runs the government-affairs consultancy Align Public Strategies in partnership with Kefauver.

Even a minor violation—a 16-year-old working past 7 p.m. on a school night, say—may be taken as additional proof that restaurants are over-working 14- and 15-year-olds.

“We will have a minority of the violations and the majority of the bad press,” predicted Kefauver. “It’s a new line of attack. We just do not want to step into that space.”

How do they recommend the industry step out of the crosshairs?

Download this week’s episode to learn what the pair advises, as well as what other political issues are arising for the restaurant business.

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