Group protests employment practices at local restaurant headquarters

2013-11-19T18:45:00Z 2013-11-20T00:17:22Z Group protests employment practices at local restaurant headquartersJoyce Russell joyce.russell@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2222 nwitimes.com

PORTAGE | Nearly 20 members of the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago briefly protested Tuesday morning outside the offices of Restaurant Management Corp. before being asked to leave by police.

The protest was on behalf of Maria Sonia Acuna-Avila, who has worked at the company's Union Station McDonald's restaurant in Chicago for 10 years, said Deivid Rojas, communications director for the group.

Last month Acuna-Avila was told by the company to resubmit employment verification paperwork or face termination. She was given 30 days to file the paperwork. When she left work on Thursday, Nov. 14, she was not on the schedule for the coming work week, said Rojas.

The group protested at the Union Station McDonald's on Friday, but received no response from management and decided to take the protest to the Portage headquarters of the company, he said.

Led by a field director, the group entered the RMC office. The union's field director, who would not provide his name, requested they meet with human resources officials on Acuna-Avila's issues.

Maureen Zakutansky, human resources director, met with the group in the lobby and told them she would arrange another time to meet with Acuna-Avila because it was a confidential matter, before asking them to leave.

The group left, and holding signs saying "We are Worth More" and "Demands Justice at McDonalds," walked around the building and back to the front door of the office. Approximately a half dozen Portage police officers, called by the company, arrived and the group left peacefully.

"My organization has treated the employee fairly and consistently. After we received notification that the social security number provided by the employee did not match the Social Security Administration's records, she was asked to provide an explanation. To date, and after being given more than four weeks to do so, the employee still has not supplied that information. We now have a responsibility to comply with federal law and have done so. We remain willing to assist the employee in her efforts to resolve her legal work status," said Rod Lubeznik, McDonald's owner/operator, Restaurant Management Corporation, said in a written statement.

Rojas said the next step will be determined by the group's attorney and could range from a meeting to resolve Acuna-Avila's issues to legal action.

Rojas said the union organized a year ago to represent workers in the fast food and retail industries to address issues such as Acuna-Avila's and to bring those issues to the public's attention. The group is also lobbying for a $15 per hour minimum wage.

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