McDonald's Ruling Could Bring Big Labor Back from the Brink

Obama's National Labor Relations Board made a significant ruling against McDonald's on Tuesday. That ruling may make it much easier for labor unions to sweep up part-time workers are franchise corporations, and upsets 30 years of corporate-franchise law, according to the New York Times.

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.

Big Labor instigated the case and is crowing that it is getting what it wants.

Wilma Liebman, a former chairwoman of the National Labor Relations Board under President Obama and now an occasional consultant to unions, said the decision could give fast-food workers and labor unions leverage to get the company to negotiate about steps that would make it easier to organize McDonald’s restaurants. Similarly, she said, the ruling could give the workers and unions more clout in pressing McDonald’s to have its franchisees raise wages.

The percentage of American workers who belong to unions has been in deep decline over the past few decades. States are trending away from forced union membership and toward right-to-work.

Big Labor has only maintained its viability in an unholy union with unionized government workers, whose dues pay off Democrats to keep government jobs lucrative and have contributed to making government worker pensions unsustainable. The union between Big Labor and Big Government costs taxpayers billions.

But if Big Labor can capture workers at franchise restaurants, many of which are small family-owned businesses that buy into larger corporate branding and products, it could find a new lease on life. It could also price products at those businesses out of range for lower-income Americans, and will surely cost hundreds of thousands of Americans their jobs, by forcing wage hikes that those businesses cannot sustain.