Jeff Fuentes Gleghorn
Santonastasso Enterprises, owned by John and Kathleen Santonastasso, was fined over $57,000 for violating child labor laws at 13 McDonald’s controlled by the company. The labor law violations involved over 100 children aged 14 and 15, who were scheduled to work longer shifts, later hours, and more hours per week than legally allowed. In some cases, the children were made to work more than 8 hours in a day.
“Permitting young workers to work excessive hours can jeopardize their safety, well-being, and education,” Wage and Hour Division District Director John DuMont said in a Department of Labor news release. “Employers who hire young workers must understand and comply with federal child labor laws or face costly consequences.”
The $57,000 fine highlights a persistent issue in enforcing labor violations: the fines are too low. A study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics concluded that the benefits of violating labor laws outweigh the risks for most companies. An article published by the Economic Policy Institute points out that the fines for child labor violations are as little as .1 percent of the fines for “white collar” crimes. In the case of Santonastasso Enterprises, $57,000 for labor violations involving over 100 children is barely noticeable. Business Insider reports that to open just one restaurant, McDonald’s charges a $45,000 franchising fee and requires franchisees to have $500,000 in liquid assets. The Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School defines liquid assets as “cash on hand, cash on bank deposit, and assets that can be quickly and easily converted to cash.”
DuMont says that employers should “face costly consequences,” but the fine that the Santonastassos face is roughly equivalent to the franchising fee for a single one of the thirteen restaurants they operate. At most this delays the opening of another location controlled by Santonastasso Enterprises. As shocking as these revelations may seem to people in the Pittsburgh area, it proves the point of the Peterson Institute study. The fines for these crimes are far too low to stop companies from abusing their child workers.