Neal, Bazemore say East Liberty McDonald’s protest misdirected


As part of a nationwide series of protest over lawsuits alleging “wage theft” by managers against McDonald’s employees in three states, a crowd gathered outside the East Liberty McDonald’s store owned by Iftikhar Malik shouting slogans and demanding better pay.

None of them were his employees, and he is not alleged to have taken any of the actions against workers claimed in the lawsuits.

That, said two community leaders who have worked with Malik, is outrageous.

“I think it’s a cheap shot,” said Champion Enterprises Founder and CEO Bill Neal. “In the last 30 years, of all those I’ve worked with in the community, this guy is as good as they come. From day one, he supported our Connie Hawkins League. I think it’s outrageous because those charges do not describe the man I know.

“I have relatives who’ve worked for him and never heard a complaint. He is nothing but generous and accommodating,” he added. “He employs people from the community, and from half-way houses. Picket a McDonald’s that’s not doing the right thing. He is doing the right thing.”

Neal added that Malik donates generously to the Champion’s annual toys for tots program, and does whatever he can to help kids become better citizens. In most cases the Toys for Tots are held at his McDonald’s.

Martial Arts Master instructor Jacquet Bazemore was also shocked that Malik was picketed.

He said Malik came to this country with barely any money in his pockets, worked hard, and now owns four restaurants. But he wants to give back, so he does.

“He has concern for the communities he operates in. He invests in the community, in the people and in the city. He’s part of the answer, not part of the problem,” said Bazemore. “I’ve known him to reach out to give jobs to people on the cusp of being unable to care for their families. He’s self-made and he’s in a position to give back to a country he loves. For a former marine like me that’s good to see.”

Malik said, as a franchisee, he is restricted from saying anything beyond the statement issued by McDonald’s headquarters last week regarding the lawsuits and protests.

The class action lawsuits filed in New York, California and Michigan accuse McDonald’s management of various violations including, forcing employees to work “off the clock,” failing to pay overtime and not reimbursing employees for the cost of uniform cleaning.

One owner of seven Manhattan area franchises settled with New York State for $500,000 the day before the March 18 protests.

Later that day McDonald’s issued the following statement: “McDonald’s and our independent owner-operators are each committed to undertaking a comprehensive investigation of the allegations and will take any necessary actions as they apply to our respective organizations.”

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