McDonald’s and its franchisees illegally retaliated against employees for participating in union-related activities, the National Labor Relations Board’s top lawyer alleged Friday in a case with sweeping industry implications.
NLRB general counsel Richard Griffin announced Friday he will issue 13 complaints involving 78 charges against franchises and McDonald’s USA, LLC.
Though many of these alleged labor violations were committed by independent franchise owners, Griffin ruled earlier this year that McDonald’s can be held liable for those actions as a so-called joint employer, leaving the corporatrion — and potentially other franchisors — exposed to such claims.
McDonald’s said the decision will “strike at the heart of the franchise system.”
“McDonald’s is disappointed with the board’s decision to overreach and move forward with these charges,” 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,” it added.
McDonald’s argued it shouldn’t be held responsible for labor decisions made by independent franchise operators, but labor groups accused the popular fast food chain of “inventing a make-believe world in which responsibility for wages and working conditions falls squarely on the shoulder of franchisees.”
Two years after fast food workers in New York walked out of stores and restaurants throughout the city to demand $15 an hour and a union, their movement has grown and changed dramatically. That was evident on December 4, when fast food workers in approximately 190 cities went out on strike, according to organizers—the largest number so far.
In addition, since the “Fight for 15” came at a time of continuing decline in real wages for most Americans, the workers’ demands have triggered new, broad-based campaigns that are winning much higher minimum wages than anyone dreamed possible in many states and localities. Organizers claim that in large part thanks to this spreading campaign, nearly 7 million workers have received significant pay raises.
But the workers’ reliance on direct action, including civil disobedience that started last year and has been part of many protests and strikes since, has also inspired workers from other industries to join in, especially low-wage service workers who are largely interchangeable in the job market.
For example, according to organizers, as workers went out on strike at the super-sized “Rock ‘n Roll McDonald’s” in downtown Chicago during today’s actions, a convenience store clerk at a nearby BP station who had witnessed such protests before walked off his job and joined the fast food workers. Around the country, organizers said that burger cooks and cashiers were joined not only by convenience store workers but also home care aides, airport workers, dollar store and Walmart clerks, federal contract workers and even some adjunct professors.