Who’s the Boss? McDonald’s is, Feds Determine
Contrary to Company’s Repeated Claims, Move by NLRB Shows Fast-Food Giant is An Employer
Labor Board says McDonald’s plays critical role in employment decisions at its restaurants; Company can’t hide behind franchisees any longer
New York, NY—Despite McDonald’s repeated assertions that it does not control employment decisions at its franchised restaurants, the federal government Tuesday said that the $5.6 billion company is indeed an employer that exerts substantial power over its employees’ working conditions.
In a determination that carries widespread implications for the fast-food industry, the National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel found that McDonald’s wields such extensive influence over the business operations of its franchisees that individual franchise operators have little autonomy in setting or controlling workplace conditions. McDonald’s, for all intents and purposes, is the employer.
The general counsel’s office Tuesday informed regional directors of the NLRB in offices around the country that McDonald’s should be treated as an employer. There are dozens of charges alleging illegal conduct by the fast-food giant pending in at least 17 cities that could now be adjudicated using the government’s new directive.
“McDonald’s can try to hide behind its franchisees, but today’s determination by the NLRB shows there’s no two ways about it: The Golden Arches is an employer, plain and simple,” said Micah Wissinger, an attorney at Levy Ratner who brought the case on behalf of McDonald’s workers in New York City. “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.”
For nearly two years, McDonald’s and other fast-food workers across the country have been joining together and going on strike, calling for $15 and the right to form a union without retaliation. But time and time again, the company and other industry players have tried to sidestep workers’ calls, inventing a make-believe world in which responsibility for wages and working conditions falls squarely on the shoulder of franchisees.
“Now that the government has recognized what us workers have always known— that McDonald’s is the boss—maybe the company will stop making excuses for why we’re treated so poorly and pay us a wage we can live on,” said Richard Eiker, who has worked for the same Kansas City McDonald’s franchisee for 18 years.
“As the federal governments determination shows, McDonald’s clearly uses its vast powers to control franchisees in just about every way possible,” said Kendall Fells, organizing director of Fast Food Forward. “It’s time the company put those same powers to work to do something about the fact that its workers are living in poverty.”
The government’s determination is the latest challenge to the fast-food industry’s low-wage business model, in which franchisors reap rewards of a profitable industry, while forcing franchisees to shoulder all the risk. In March, McDonald’s workers in three states filed class-action lawsuits against the company, alleging widespread wage theft. The New York Times wrote that the suits, “argue that both the corporate parent and the independently owned franchises where many of the plaintiffs work are jointly responsible for illegal pay practices carried out by the franchises…That strikes at the heart of the low-wage fast-food business model.”