More Perfect Union’s latest video shows when private equity firms come in, workers can suffer.
Cheesecake Factory workers spoke with More Perfect Union, describing their working conditions when their employer was owned by private equity firm Roark Capital.
The video explains how Inspire Brands’ owner Roark Capital employs around one million workers, 650,000 workers in fast food alone, and they are the second largest food conglomerate in the country. A 2020 GAO report found that a number of Roark Capital-owned fast food chains, including Dunkin’ Donuts, Sonic, Arby’s and Hardee’s, had among the highest number of workers relying on food stamps and Medicaid in multiple states.
See Private Equity Stakeholder Project’s July 2021 report: Roark Capital’s Booming Wage Theft Risk
During the pandemic, Cheesecake Factory workers faced staffing shortages, low wages, and a working environment with safety risks. Some worked 12 hour days, 6 days a week, with limited Covid protections.
Workers shared during the video many insights to how The Cheesecake Factory made decisions on health and safety precautions for employees and customers:
“How the company has responded has been to prioritize their profits over people.”
“They didn’t care about the workers’ health. It was just really disheartening and honestly, kind of disgusting to see. They would allow indoor dining even when the pandemic was in surges, because they didn’t want to lose that profit.”
“I have seen a lot of injuries and a lot more risky behavior at work, because of how busy it is. Things like servers or bussers running with hot drinks or running with very full plates. We end up dropping these more so shards of ceramic and glass go everywhere. We all have to stop and clean it up. We have so much pressure on the outside to keep our flow going.”
“A lot of people did not feel safe coming in. A lot of people felt afraid to take their sick days off because we were still under-staffed then. There was definitely a lot of pressure to come in even if you were ill. The state of California offered workers ten days of paid time off in case a worker got sick or was facing side effects from getting the vaccine. . . . They did the legal minimum,… posting notification on this in very small text, hidden away with a lot of other old irrelevant posters So the vast majority of my coworkers including myself didn’t know about this until we actively looked into it. I feel like they didn’t want to tell us because that would require paying us for time off and recently they have been doing what they can to claw that away from us.”
Private Equity Stakeholder Project Executive Director Jim Baker shared in the video, “”Roark more than doubled its money in just over a year, or made a $257 million profit. Their sole reason for buying up these companies is to grow cash-flow for themselves. Roark Capital bragged about how it had helped kill the Raise the Wage Act.”
“I get $9 an hour here. I know there are a lot of states that are still at $2.13. When I worked in North Carolina it was still $2.13. So again, if the company can pay you $2.13, they’re going to pay you $2.13. And as a tipped employee you will never see a raise.”
“There’s a high turnover rate with new hires, just seeing the workload for the pay and seeing that it’s not quite matching up. The Cheesecake Factory has more than doubled its to-go sales since even before the shutdown, every location is averaging about $3 million in to-go sale in only a year.”
“There’s a lot of money being made by investors and higher ups that we’re not seeing, even though we’re the ones who are constantly putting in the hard work, going the extra mile.”
The workers who were interviewed did not take this treatment lightly. Instead they shared how they were resisting their workplace conditions:
“We’re taking the moment to tell them that this isn’t okay, and that we are going to exercise our rights as workers here, and that we do deserve better, and that we do deserve a living wage.”
“We’re realizing you need us more so in a lot of ways than we need you.”
“I think they’re a little afraid of it certainly, especially with all the things happening with Starbucks’ workers right now.”
“We know this place could be better.”
“We want not only the guests to be happy, but for the employees to be happy as well – to not be so overworked, to not be so over-burdened, to have pride in the place that we work at.”
“Right now the CEO makes almost 300 times what the average worker makes. That’s a ridiculous sort of dichotomy. Give us all a little slice.”