A franchisee who owns three McDonald's restaurants in Harrisburg, Pa., has left the company after allegations of worker exploitation.
Foreign guest workers -- students from Asia and Latin America -- employed by the franchisee, Andy Cheung, allege that he forced them to work shifts of up to 25 hours and pay steep rent for living in his and his son's crowded basements, according to The Nation. The workers also allege that Cheung did not pay them for all of the hours they worked and that he retaliated against them for going on strike by locking them out of their living quarters.
The guest workers paid as much as $3,000 apiece to come to the U.S. on temporary visas as part of a State Department exchange program, according to the National Guestworker Alliance, which is representing the workers. The group says Cheung deducted rent from the workers' paychecks, pushing their pay below the minimum wage.
"We were living 6 men in a basement, on bunk beds that were clearly made [for] children and one tiny bathroom," Jorge Rios, an Argentinian college student who started working for Cheung in December, told CNNMoney. The workers have filed complaints with both the Labor Department and the State Department.
Danya Proud, a McDonald's spokeswoman, told The Huffington Post in a Thursday statement that the company has taken action in response.
"The franchisee has agreed to leave the McDonald's system," Proud said. "We take the well-being of the employees working in McDonald's restaurants seriously. We began investigating the situation in Pennsylvania immediately upon learning of the issues involved."
About 20 people, including some of the guest workers, protested outside of a different McDonald's restaurant in Times Square in New York City on Thursday, according to The Nation. If McDonald's CEO Donald Thompson does not agree to meet with them, they plan to protest outside of the company's headquarters in Chicago and then at Thompson's house on Mar. 26.