The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has found that McDonald’s is, in fact, a joint employer with its franchisees, and therefore liable for the things the franchisees do to their workers, according to a story on Progress Illinois’ website.
These things include wage theft, and retaliating against workers who participate in protests, strikes and unionization efforts, not to mention paying unlivable wages. McDonald’s has been hiding behind its franchisees throughout all the protests; however, the NLRB found that they do play a key role in employment, and thus, are responsible for the treatment their employees get.
Progress Illinois reports that attorney Micah Wissinger said:
“Despite McDonald’s repeated assertions that they do not control employment decisions at the franchise level, and they attempt to shirk their responsibility for the poor working conditions and the low wages of their workers, the reality is that McDonald’s requires their franchises to adhere to incredibly regimented rules and regulations, and there’s really no doubt who’s in charge.”
Of course, McDonald’s plans to fight the NLRB’s findings. According to Bloomberg, they claim they have a “hands-off role” in managing their franchise restaurants. Worker groups say otherwise, and explain that McDonald’s does, in fact, keep very close tabs on its franchisees.
McDonald’s is definitely insensitive to the plight of their workers, regardless of what they say. They’ve done such things as publish a budget plan with gross underestimates of living costs (which is hilarious, considering they’re based just outside of Chicago), and how much workers should tip people like au pairs, pool cleaners, and massage therapists (because minimum wage workers live so high on the hog).
This decision came about at least in part because some McDonald’s workers in New York said they were fired for union activities. That case also claimed that restaurants threatened employees, cut their hours, and even suspended some for union activities. Bloomberg also reported on that earlier this month, and published this quote from Catherine Ruckelshaus, the general counsel for the National Employment Law Project:
“McDonald’s claims that it has no influence over the wages and working conditions of its employees, but it effectively controls workers’ pay, hours and schedules by controlling every other variable in the business except wages. Technological advances allow McDonald’s to watch over its franchisees’ operations like a hawk, in ways that go well beyond simply protecting its brand. A decision in this case should leave no doubt that McDonald’s is an employer and put an end to its self-serving charade that it is not.”
Progress Illinois published McDonald’s full statement, where they also said that this decision would change the rules for the thousands of small businesses that are franchises, and hurt them badly. The truth is, however, that if low wages and other illegal treatment of employees is part and parcel of working for a franchise, then perhaps the rules need to change. This decision is a victory for the low-paid workers in the fast-food industry, and may turn out to help low-paid workers in other sectors.
Featured photo: Progress Illinois.