Monday morning, the National Labor Relations Board overturned a ruling that would have allowed football players at Northwestern University to unionize.
Citing concerns a union would provide an unfair advantage in the college football arena between unionized schools and the un-unionized, the NLRB's ruling was unanimous.
Labor unions have struggled over the past few years to gain a hold on the fast food industry, but a recent advisory opinion by the NLRB may have cracked the door for union organizers trying to breach the corporate-franchisee relationship.
On Tuesday, the NLRB's General Counsel declared that McDonald's as a corporate entity is a "joint employer" of employees at all of its restaurants--including those employed at its nearly 3000 franchisees. The problem with this ruling is that it flies in the face of the established law governing business associations: franchise contracts explicitly state that franchisees are independent and have complete authority over their own employees, and state and federal regulatory authorities generally respect these contracts as definitive in labor disputes.
McDonald's Corporation isn't taking the ruling lying down, though. Via the Washington Examiner:
"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, president of the Fast Food Workers committee and a former SEIU organizer. "It's time the company put those same powers to work to do something about the fact that its workers are living in poverty."
A McDonald's Corporation spokeswoman confirmed the ruling and said the company will continue to legally fight it "in the appropriate forum."
"McDonald's does not direct or co-determine the hiring, termination, wages, hours, or any other essential terms and conditions of employment of our franchisees' employees – which are the well-established criteria governing the definition of a 'joint employer,'" said Heather Smedstad, McDonald's senior vice president for human resources.