While the National Labor Relations Board overturned an Obama-era ruling that gave workers significant leverage in challenging labor practices of fast food restaurants and other chains, McDonald’s will still be held accountable for its misdeeds. NLRB general counsel has been building a strong case for illegal surveillance, discipline, and firing of workers against McDonald’s as a joint employer. Even under the new narrower definition of the law, the fast-food giant exerts “direct and immediate” control over employees at franchised stores. McDonald’s owns the property where locations operate and specify the supply chain vendors, pricing, and store hours.
McDonald’s workers, labor leaders, and elected officials from five continents testified before a Brazilian Senate committee last week. The hearing comes as the fight for $15 per hour grows internationally. The workers, including one from Chicago, spoke about the companies labor practices.
Brazilian Senator Paulo Paim, who spearheaded the Senate hearing and chairs the Brazilian Senate’s Human Rights and Participative Legislation Committee said in a statement: “McDonald’s is one of the most recognized brands around the world, and this hearing makes clear that its corrosive business model spans the globe as well. Brazil can be the country that leads the way in holding this company accountable. Let this hearing mark a moment where governments around the world join together to demand that global companies like McDonald’s do better by workers and the public as a whole.”
Up till now the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) efforts to organize America’s fast food workers are blocked by the fact that most of them (including 700,000 McDonald’s workers) are employed by franchises. Therefore, the union cannot legally negotiate a contract with the corporation that owns the brand name. SEIU says their two strategies for working towards fast food worker organization are: try to get the National Labor Relations Board and courts to rule that fast food companies exercise so much control over their franchisees that they are effectively joint employers, and to use publicity to pressure fast food corporations to order franchisees to treat their workers better.