The Fight for 15 movement has successfully raised wages for working people across America, but it also made significant legal progress towards making it possible for fast food workers to unionize. The Trump administration, led by a man who loves McDonald’s, is doing everything it can to destroy that progress.
During the Obama administration, the National Labor Relations Board decided that companies that operate under a franchise model—like McDonald’s and Taco Bell and many other fast food chains—could in most cases be considered “joint employers” of the people who work at individual locations, which means that the parent companies could be forced to negotiate with workers who unionize. This new joint employer standard destroyed the fig leaf that these companies have long used to avoid taking responsibility for the working conditions in their stores: that it is the franchise owners, not the companies themselves, that are responsible for the working conditions, and therefore the companies cannot be compelled to bargain over these things. This justification has always been obvious bullshit. Naturally, as soon as Donald Trump took office, his labor board rescinded the progressive ruling.
Now, the NLRB is in the process of formulating a new (and worse for working people) joint employer standard. Here is how hostile the Trump administration’s appointees are to people who work for a living: the labor board drafted a new rule to make life easier on McDonald’s, and now the board’s own attorney says that that rule does not go far enough in its attempt to erect a wall against unions. Bloomberg Law reports (bolding ours):
[NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb’s] criticisms could push the board to pursue a joint employer rule that is even more favorable to businesses than its current plan. The board’s current proposal would categorize a company as a joint employer if it has “direct and immediate” control over the most important terms of a worker’s job, largely returning the NLRB’s legal test to what it was before a contentious Obama-era decision expanded it to consider indirect and unexercised control.
Under Robb’s recommendations, a company found to be a joint employer wouldn’t have to bargain with a union unless it controls “all listed essential terms and conditions of employment,” which Robb said the board should define and list in its rule. Robb also said an employer should be legally liable for a co-employer’s unfair labor practices only if it participated in the unlawful conduct.
As you can imagine, a rule that allows huge corporations to escape responsibility for working conditions in their franchises if they can demonstrate one single condition of employment that they do not fully control is a very corporate-friendly rule indeed. (“Hello, McDonald’s corporate headquarters does not make your weekly schedule, therefore we are not legally obligated to bargain with your union. Also, McDonald’s corporate headquarters did not personally participate in your boss’s wage theft scheme, so it is not our problem. Now fuck off forever.”)
This rule would be very detrimental to the cause of fast food workers coming together to improve their wages and working conditions. That is exactly why the Republicans are doing this. They hate people who work for a living unless they can control them.