NLRB: McDonald's Engaged in Unfair Labor Practices

By Higgins, Sean | Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The, December 19, 2014 | Go to article overview

NLRB: McDonald's Engaged in Unfair Labor Practices


Higgins, Sean, Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The


The National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint against McDonald's Corp. Friday, saying it was jointly responsible for labor violations at its local franchise restaurants.

The charges have major implications for businesses because they run counter to the common understanding of how business franchises work -- that the individual franchise is a private, legally separate entity from the parent company. The complaint issued by the NLRB's general counsel said McDonald's franchise system means that the local businesses aren't truly private and the corporation can be held liable for their actions.

"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," the NLRB said.

The NLRB is the entity that enforces federal labor law. The complaint, issued by the board's general counsel, folds together 13 individual complaints comprising 78 charges of labor violations at McDonald's restaurants across the country. The full five-member board will hold a trial on the charges in March.

"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," the company said in a statement. "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 says 80 percent of its 2,500 domestic franchise restaurants are privately owned. Critics argue, though, that the franchiser-franchisee relationship is not an equal one.

"Given that McDonald's remains manifestly in control of franchisees' working conditions, it's common sense that the company should share legal responsibility with franchisees when it comes to securing workers' rights on the job," Mark Barenberg, a Columbia Law School professor, said in a conference call organized by the National Employment Law Project. …

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