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NRLB General Counsel Authorizes Complaints against McDonald's Franchisees, also naming McDonald's USA as a Joint Employer

ABSTRACT: NLRB General Counsel fires a shot across the bow of McDonald's and other national franchisors.

On June 29th, the General Counsel’s office of the National Labor Relations Board announced that it had authorized the issuance of 43 separate complaints against McDonald’s franchisees, as a result of activities surrounding employee protests; and that the parent company, McDonald’s USA, LLC, would also be named in the complaints as a “joint employer”.

The announcement immediately drew the wrath of retail industry representatives.  Angelo Amador, Vice President of Labor and Work Force Policy for the National Restaurant Association, said the General Counsel’s decision to issue complaints “overturns 30 years of established law regarding the franchise model in the United States, erodes the proven franchisor/franchisee relationship, and jeopardizes the success of 90 percent of America’s restaurants who are independent operators or franchisees."

David French, Senior Vice President of the National Retail Federation called the decision “outrageous”, and said “It is just further evidence that the NLRB has lost all credibility as a government agency established to protect workers and is now just a government agency that serves as an adjunct for organized labor, which has fought for this decision for a number of years as a means to more easily unionize entire companies and industries.”

Micah Wissinger, an attorney who filed some of these cases, stated that the McDonald’s parent company “is an employer, plain and simple”, and that “McDonald’s requires franchisees to adhere to such regimented rules and regulations that there’s no doubt who’s really in charge.”

The implications of the General Counsel announcement will likely extend well beyond these individual complaints, and spill over into union organizational campaigns in which unions are likely to seek bargaining units covering multiple McDonald’s restaurants.  Other franchisors may face similar challenges.

It can safely be assumed that McDonald’s will aggressively defend the current complaints at the NLRB, and subsequently in the federal court system.  This is undoubtedly the first round in what is likely to be a lengthy battle.