March 18, 2016
By Steven Wishnia
New York, NY – The National Labor Relations Board opened hearings March 10 on whether McDonald's should be held responsible for any labor-law violations committed by its franchisees, on the grounds that it is a “joint employer.
” Fast-food workers backed by the Service Employees International Union have complained that their employers illegally retaliated against them for taking time off to participate in protests demanding a $15-an-hour minimum wage. While the franchises are legally independent businesses, NLRB lead lawyer Jamie Rucker argued, McDonald’s effectively controls their workers’ conditions: It sets requirements for the hiring process, specifies crew sizes for restaurants, gives franchisees tools to schedule shifts based on demand, and in one case, its “operations consultants” told franchise owners to reduce staffing. Lawyers for McDonald's dismissed the hearing as a partisan attack on franchising, with attorney Willis Goldsmith charging that the NLRB “believes that unions would be better off if franchisors were joint employers with their franchisees.” If the NLRB ruled that McDonald’s was a joint employer, a union could organize multiple restaurants and bargain directly with the corporation, instead of being limited to individual franchises. Read more