This was big news yesterday:
The general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board ruled on Tuesday that McDonald’s could be held jointly liable for labor and wage violations by its franchise operators — a decision that, if upheld, would disrupt longtime practices in the fast-food industry and ease the way for unionizing nationwide.
Business groups called the decision outrageous. Some legal experts described it as a far-reaching move that could signal the labor board’s willingness to hold many other companies to the same standard of “joint employer,” making businesses that use subcontractors or temp agencies at least partly liable in cases of overtime, wage or union-organizing violations.
The ruling comes after the labor board’s legal team investigated myriad complaints that fast-food workers brought in the last 20 months, accusing McDonald’s and its franchisees of unfair labor practices.
This isn’t just about wages. It’s also about the theft of wages:
McDonald’s workers in California, Michigan and New York filed lawsuits this week against the company and several franchise owners, asserting that they illegally underpaid employees by erasing hours from their timecards, not paying overtime and ordering them to work off the clock.
The lawsuits were announced Thursday by the employees’ lawyers and organizers of the union-backed movement that is pressing the nation’s fast-food restaurants to increase wages to at least $15 an hour.
In two lawsuits filed in Michigan against McDonald’s and two Detroit-area franchise owners, workers claimed that their restaurants told them to show up to work, but then ordered them to wait an hour or two without pay until enough customers arrived.
“Our wages are already at rock bottom,” Sharnell Grandberry, a McDonald’s worker in Detroit, said in a news release announcing the suit. “It is time for McDonald’s to stop skirting the law to pad profits. We need to get paid for the hours we work.”
In three lawsuits brought in California, the workers claim that the McDonald’s restaurants employing them did not pay them for all hours worked, shaved hours from pay records and denied them required meal periods and rest breaks.
I haven’t been able to find anyone offering anything to replace the very old idea of organizing and then speaking as a group to gain some small leverage and power in the workplace – in other words, a labor union. Unions were and are a force outside of government that shifted some power and control from employers to employees. Until someone shows me some other entity or organization or idea that will fill that hole, labor unions are the only game in town. There’s a huge imbalance of power operating here and it is only going to get worse as we move to “domestic outsourcing” and more and more of us are contract workers or temps and the relationship between employee and employer becomes more and more attenuated and distant:
Say “outsourcing” and Americans think of call centers in India or factories in China. But American workers increasingly are being forced to navigate a byzantine system of third-party contractors that leads to lower pay and fewer benefits.
Call it “domestic outsourcing.”
A new report from the National Employment Law Project says that domestic outsourcing makes it harder for workers to organize and effectively lets companies pass the buck on taxes, benefits and worker safety.