In a win for fast food workers, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued complaints alleging labor law violations against McDonald's USA and several of its franchisees on Friday, naming them as a "joint employer."
The NLRB issued 13 complaints involving 78 charges in 13 cities, including Chicago. The cases, which date as far back as November 2012, when fast food workers in New York participated in the first strike against the fast food industry, allege that McDonald's USA and some of its 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," according to the NLRB.
If the "allegations cannot be resolved through settlement," the NLRB said the cases will come before an administrative law judge beginning on March 30 in Chicago, Los Angeles and Manhattan.
"It's no surprise that the NLRB's complaint would name McDonald's as a joint employer," Catherine Ruckelshaus, general counsel at the National Employment Law Project, said in a statement. "While lobbyists for the fast-food industry might loudly disagree, their objections don't change the facts: If you work at McDonald's, then you work for McDonald's, and not just the company's franchisees. McDonald's exerts substantial control over its franchised restaurants; it's only right that the company should also be held responsible for the rights of workers at its restaurants."
Micah Wissinger, an attorney at Levy Ratner who brought one of the cases on behalf of New York City McDonald's workers, added, "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."
"The complaint validates what workers have been saying over and over again--that McDonald's requires franchisees to adhere to such regimented rules and regulations that there's no doubt who's really in charge," he said.
McDonald's issued the following statement in response to the NLRB's decision:
The National Labor Relations Board's actions today improperly and dramatically strike at the heart of the franchise system - a system that creates economic opportunity, jobs and income for thousands of business owners and their employees across the country.
McDonald's is disappointed with the Board's decision to overreach and move forward with these charges, and will contest the joint employer allegation as well as the unfair labor practice (ULP) charges in the proper forums.
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. McDonald's has taken the appropriate measures, working properly with its independent franchisees, to defend itself against that attack on its business.
McDonald's serves its 2,500 independent franchisees' interests by protecting and promoting the McDonald's brand and by providing access to resources related to food quality, customer service, and restaurant management, among other things. These optional resources help entrepreneurs operate successful businesses. This relationship does not establish a joint employer relationship under the law - and decades of case law support that principle.
It is important to understand that the ULP complaints issued by the NLRB merely contain allegations that the NLRB has decided deserve further fact finding before an administrative law judge. These complaints are not determinations or rulings on the facts of the cases. The final resolution of these complaints will require a lengthy process.
Our independent owner/operators have informed us that they will contest the ULP charges as well.