WASHINGTON – A complaint filed on Dec. 19 by the National Labor Relations Board against McDonald’s Corp. and some of its franchisees sent the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Right-to-Work Foundation into a conniption. That could only mean it was good news for workers – and indeed, this and other recent rulings by President Obama’s handpicked NLRB majority are finally bearing fruit for organized labor.
U.S. National Labor Relations Board’s Office of the General Counsel accused the parent McDonald’s Corp. – and importantly, its franchisees – of illegally firing or intimidating workers for participating in union organizing or protests calling for higher wages.
Complaints were filed in 78 cases brought against the fast food giant. According to the NLRB’s statement: “The complaints allege that McDonald’s USA, LLC and certain franchisees violated the rights of employees working at McDonald’s restaurants at various locations around the country by, among other things, making statements and taking actions against them for engaging in activities aimed at improving their wages and working conditions, including participating in nationwide fast food worker protests about their terms and conditions of employment during the past two years.”
McDonald’s called the move an “overreach” and vowed to contest it. “These allegations are driven in large part by a two-year, union-financed campaign that has targeted the McDonald’s brand and impacted McDonald’s restaurants,” said Lisa McComb, a company spokeswoman.
News agency Reuters said the NLRB’s action “has the potential to rewrite long-held rules governing labor relations between parent companies and franchises that are run as independent businesses.”
“McDonald’s and its corporate lobbyists continue to claim that the company has no responsibility for workers at its restaurants, but today’s complaint underscores the obvious fact that McDonald’s is the boss,” said Micah Wissinger, an attorney whose law firm brought the case on behalf of McDonald’s workers in New York City.
The complaints treat McDonald’s, the world’s largest restaurant chain, as a “joint employer,” meaning that it could be held liable along with its franchisees for any violations, the NLRB’s general counsel, Richard Griffin, said. That’s what has big business worried.
“Today’s action is just another in a line of decisions and initiatives by the board within the last two weeks that blatantly advance the union agenda,” said Randy Johnson, senior vice president for labor, immigration and employee benefits at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The complaints will be considered by administrative law judges beginning in March 2015; the decisions can be appealed to the five-member NLRB and ultimately to federal courts.
Patrick Semmens, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation, said “the General Counsel’s announcement is a Happy Meal for forced-dues hungry union bosses. It flies in the face of longstanding law and is another gift from this radical Obama NLRB to the administration’s Big Labor backers. Today’s announcement hands union organizers a powerful weapon to use against employers, many of which are small businesses, that refuse to give into union officials’ demands.”