Landmark Ruling Opens Door for Fast-Food Unions

Labor board says McD's, franchisees can be named as 'joint employers'

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 30, 2014 2:23 AM CDT | Updated Jul 30, 2014 7:33 AM CDT

(Newser) – McDonald's can't completely reject responsibility for the pay and working conditions of people in McDonald's uniforms serving McDonald's food at McDonald's restaurants, the National Labor Relations Board decided in a landmark ruling yesterday. The board said that the company could be considered a joint employer in worker rights complaints, despite its insistence that the franchisees who operate around 90% of its restaurants are independent operators in charge of setting wages and other policies, reports the Chicago Tribune. If the ruling holds up in appeals, which could go as far as the Supreme Court, it could make it a lot easier for fast-food workers to unionize amid a push for $15 hourly pay.

McDonald's blasted the ruling as an "outrageous" and "radical" move that goes against decades of established law and could end up hurting businesses in other sectors, the AP reports. A lawyer for some of the McDonald's workers involved in the case, however, argues that McDonald's has so much control over its restaurants that it needs to accept responsibility for labor conditions. "The reality is that McDonald's requires franchisees to adhere to such regimented rules and regulations that there's no doubt who's really in charge," he says. A labor law professor at the University of Texas agrees. "Employers like McDonald's seek to avoid recognizing the rights of their employees by claiming that they are not really their employer, despite exercising control over crucial aspects of the employment relationship," he tells the New York Times. "McDonald’s should no longer be able to hide behind its franchisees."

Demonstrators rally for better wages outside a McDonald's restaurant in New York as part of a national protest last December.
Demonstrators rally for better wages outside a McDonald's restaurant in New York as part of a national protest last December.   (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
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