August 4, 2014
By Neal Tepel
Washington DC – Fast food workers won a significant victory with major implications for workers and businesses across the economy. Despite McDonald’s repeated assertions that it does not control employment decisions at its franchised restaurants, the National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel said Tuesday July July 29th that the $5.6 billion company is indeed a joint employer that exerts substantial power over its employees’ working conditions.
The Washington Post declared a “big win” for fast-food workers over McDonald’s, and the article went on to say this is a “big change, with potentially far-reaching implications for the ability of millions of low-wage workers to join a union” – in the fast-food industry and beyond.
Steven Greenhouse wrote in the New York Times that “some legal experts described it as a far-reaching move that could signal the labor board’s willingness to hold many other companies to the same standard.” Greenhouse went on to paraphrase former NLRB Chair Wilma Liebman: “the decision could give fast-food workers and labor unions leverage to get the company to negotiate about steps that would make it easier to organize McDonald’s restaurants.”
An editorial in the New York Times celebrated the general counsel’s determination and called on McDonald’s to begin to negotiate with its workers. “More broadly, it is a potentially disabling blow to the low-wage, anti-union business model of McDonald’s and other fast-food giants. So far, industry executives have ignored or dismissed workers’ calls for higher pay, largely on the grounds that wages are set by franchisees. The ruling on joint responsibility will put more pressure on them to acknowledge and negotiate with their workers…”
In an MSNBC column, Tim Noah reacted to the NLRB directive with a “hallelujah” and called it an “excellent start toward de-fissuring the workplace” and “an encouraging sign that government is finally starting to wise up about franchising.”
Too Many Left Out of Economic Recovery
An AP “big story” focused on how many working Americans have been left out of the recovery and haven’t experienced the benefits of the strengthening U.S. job market. It led with Chicago McDonald’s worker Douglas Hunter, who used to earn $14 an hour cleaning oil drums before the recession. Hunter told the AP, “If the economy is getting better, I’m not sure for whom. It certainly hasn’t trickled down to me.”