With this agreement, every major American fast food restaurant now allows employees to accept new or better-paying positions within the chain.

By Mike Pomranz
Updated March 03, 2020
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Critics of “Fight for $15”—the campaign advocating for a $15 per hour living wage for fast food workers—may believe the free market should determine restaurant employee wages. But even then, things aren’t always so cut and dry. “No-poach” clauses have been common in the fast food industry, preventing franchise owners from hiring employees that have worked elsewhere in the same chain, a provision that opponents say stifles the market and devalues employees’ work experience. So for the past two years, a collation of 14 attorneys general have been pressuring many of America’s largest chains to remove these clauses, and this week, three more big brands have fallen in line: Burger King, Popeyes, and Tim Hortons.

A Popeyes restaurant with Tim Hortons in the background
Credit: Randy Risling / Contributor/Getty Images

The investigation began in July 2018, and quickly, over a dozen chains agreed to either ax their no-poach policies or prove that they’d already been removed. Three holdouts have been Burger King and Popeyes, both of which were sent letters as part of the initial investigation, and Tim Hortons—all of which are owned by Restaurant Brands International. But yesterday, the attorneys general announced they’d reached an agreement with these chains as well. The brands will no longer include no-poach provisions in future franchise agreements and will stop enforcing them in existing ones.

“No-poach agreements are unfair, have led to persistent low wages, and are anticompetitive in nature,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in announcing the deal. “These settlements will reduce barriers and empower workers to secure better-paying and higher-skill jobs.”

Meanwhile, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, another member of the coalition, said the fight was not over. “I will continue to push restaurants to end their use of no-poach agreements, which allow businesses to take advantage of low-wage workers,” he said in a statement. “These agreements stop employees from seeking higher-paying opportunities and escaping the cycle of poverty.”

That said, it’s not clear which, if any, restaurants the coalition is still targeting. The attorneys general said they requested documentation from eight chains: Arby’s, Burger King, Dunkin’, Five Guys, Little Caesars, Panera Bread, Popeyes, and Wendy’s. Dunkin’, Arby’s, Five Guys, Little Caesars, and Panera all reached an official settlement last March, while Wendy’s provided confirmation that the chain had never used no-poach clauses. By finally reaching a settlement with Burger King and Popeyes, agreements have now been reached with every member of the original list of eight.