Government Board Seeks to Reverse 30 Years of Working Labor Practice

The National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel proposes to overturn 30 years of labor relations practice by reversing joint-employer standards definitions, making it easier for organized labor to coerce bargaining units and labor lawyers to enrich themselves at the expense of business and jobs.

In a threat to business autonomy, finances, and freedom to remain non-union, the NLRB’s General Counsel, Richard F. Griffin Jr., has authorized complaints of alleged violations of the National Labor Relations Law involving McDonald franchisees and their parent franchisor, McDonald’s, USA, LLC. Griffin is a former NLRB member and a long-time organized labor leader, most recently general counsel for the International Union of Operating Engineers.

If McDonald’s Corp. and franchisees cannot settle claims, formal complaints will be filed against McDonald’s, resulting in an “all-out” assault on the joint employer standard. Another case involves Browning-Ferris.

The Department of Labor also proposes expanding the definition of who is a responsible employer.

Currently a worker is employed by the company which hired him or her – for example, a contract maintenance employee working at a privately owned franchise restaurant of a parent brand, such as a McDonald’s restaurant. In this case, the contract employee could be said to have two bosses – his employer and the franchise owner who would be able to direct his or her work.

Thomas Donohue, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said if the NLRB is successful in overturning its joint-employer standard, what it means to be an employer could become very complicated for job creators.

Donohue said that if labor relations practice is overturned, the parent brand could be liable for employment decisions of individually owned and operated franchises and could “significantly loosen” the standard for joint employer status between contractors and subcontractors.

“This potential change under the National Labor Relations Act would allow unions to characterize large, well-known businesses as the ‘employer’ of targeted groups of workers who are employed by smaller companies,” Donohue said in a recent editorial. “This would enable and encourage labor groups to launch very public organizing campaigns in hopes that the larger employer would bend to public pressure and recognize the union. Larger companies could also be forced to engage in collective bargaining if the smaller ‘joint employer’ is organized.”

The winners would be plaintiff lawyers and unions and the losers would be businesses.

“Given that damages can be tied to the number of employees a company has, it could be much more profitable to sue a major corporation than a small business,” Donohue said. “Changing this long-standing, well-working standard would not be for the benefit of job creators, workers, or our economy – it would be for advancement of big labor’s agenda and the enrichment of the plaintiffs’ bar.”

The NLRB general counsel decision was announced July 29 and public comments are being accepted.

-Dana Beyerle