U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), an independent federal agency protecting the rights of employees, on Monday kicked off hearings on whether the fast food giant McDonald's Corp should be responsible for what employees claimed are poor working conditions and low pay at its franchise restaurants.
Beginning late November 2012, employees of McDonald's and its franchisees commenced a nationwide fast food workers campaign, calling for a 15 U.S. dollar hourly wage and the opportunity to organize a union.
As of today, 310 unfair labor practice charges were filed against McDonald's and its franchisees, and approximately 10 cases solely involved corporate-owned McDonald's facilities, said the NLRB.
The charges mainly include allegations of discriminatory discipline, reductions in hours, discharges, and other coercive conduct directed at employees in response to union and protected concerted activities.
The case would have sweeping complication for the franchise industry as an affirmative finding would mark the first time that a major franchisor would be held accountable for franchisees' actions.
In July last year, the NLRB general counsel determined that McDonald's should be treated as a "joint employer." Then in December, the NLRB general counsel issued complaints against the fast food giant and some of its franchisees for allegations that they violated the rights of restaurants employees who participated in activities to improve wages and working conditions.
McDonald's argued it was not a joint employer, contending that independent franchise owners operate the restaurants, The Hill wrote on Sunday. Some business groups also argued the treating franchisors as joint employers would do grave harm to the franchise model that gives store owners autonomy.
Monday's hearing in New York is the first of several consolidated hearings to address the general counsel's complaints. The hearings signaled the second phase of the campaign aimed at bringing McDonald's to the negotiating table over wages, benefits and working conditions.