Yesterday the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board said that McDonald’s Corporation could be held liable as a joint employer for labor violations at its franchise operations. The Labor Board is considering complaints brought by McDonald’s employees who claim they were retaliated against by their employers after participating in protests back in November 2012, but the significance of this ruling goes far beyond the complaints pending before the Labor Board.
This decision is a huge victory for the fast food workers organizing to demand $15 and a union. Corporations like McDonald’s have refused to negotiate with fast food workers, such as the members of NC Raise Up who have been organizing in North Carolina for the past year, claiming that they don’t set wages and don’t have power over how much the franchisees pay. But yesterday’s ruling is based on the General Counsel’s conclusion that McDonald’s does, in fact, have substantial control over what happens in the individual stores. McDonald’s won’t be able to hide behind that argument anymore.
This ruling may also signal how judges will rule in several wage theft lawsuits filed in March of this year which allege that McDonald’s is a joint employer and jointly liable with the local franchisees for violations of wage and hour laws. Those lawsuits allege that through the franchise agreements and monitoring of the local stores, McDonald’s has enough control over day to day operations to be considered an employer.