In a move that could have far-reaching implications for franchised businesses and low-wage workers, the National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel said Tuesday that McDonald’s would be treated as a joint employer along with franchisees in 43 unfair labor practices cases. Setting this precedent would make it harder for the company to deny responsibility for wage theft and other abuses—like the cases that raised this question in the first place, with workers alleging they were fired in retaliation for participating in legally protected strikes. McDonald’s, like other franchise businesses, has traditionally claimed that it has nothing to do with labor practices in its restaurants, but the tight control the company exerts over every aspect of management of its franchisee-owned restaurants points to a different conclusion:
by Wade Rathke
Chairman of Volkswagen announced in Germany with the Tennessee Governor and US Senator Bob Coker from Tennessee hanging on every word, that the company will add 2000 workers, spend $600 million adding a new SUV line at the Chattanooga plant, and collect $166 million from the State of Tennessee in tax and other subsidies as well as $12 million in lagniappe to throw at job training for the new workers. On this score everyone can agree, but after that confusion reigns.
Senator Coker, speaking for the red-meat, union haters in the local and statewide business community, when asked for his reaction to both the plant expansion and news recently that the UAW had opened an office, chartered a local, and was hunkering down in its ongoing effort to unionize the plant, snarled through an office statement, “Any union can rent space in any city and open an office.” Well, that’s good to know, Senator? The Governor seemed more rooted in the emerging reality and praised the workers and the fact that the VW decision was a vote of confidence in them.
by Chaz Bolte
Two cases currently before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will determine what it officially means to be an employer, and the ramifications for management in industries ranging from fast food to waste collection could be serious.
Given the complicated nature of modern American labor the two decisions seek to determine who employs whom and therefore who can enter into collective bargaining agreements. The cases aim to undress the chain of command hidden by layers of temporary staffing and franchising laws many companies exploit to lower labor costs.
The first case is a consolidated case that will determine the future of fast food franchises. At question is whether McDonalds qualifies as a ‘joint employer’ along with the franchise owners. It is one of the byproducts of a growing campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 which has swept the nation.
I’d be lying if I told you that it never occurred to me to question the beauty of the countryside that I loved to explore as a young person of color in the South. Many people, like me, can’t help but admire stretches of crisp green plants that interchange with golden fields and eventually give way to pristine farm homes with freshly trimmed lawns. However, there is a deeply entrenched legacy of injustice and inequality that no amount of romanticizing or denial could remove from the reality of life in the country. But people like to forget and forgetting is costly.
I’d seen third world poverty before when I worked with a nonprofit organization in Honduras in the summer of 2012, but I still felt shocked when I went out to the camps of the trabajadores with whom FLOC organizers work to build community power. It was shocking, I think, because for the first time I was faced with the harsh realization that there is a widespread human trafficking operation of cheap labor thriving in my back yard.
Oscar Sanchez, who is the “Respect, Recognition, and Raise!” campaign leader and organizer for the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, had earlier met with farm workers who were exploring their options for coping with the after effects of a slow season. Following his meeting, FLOC had filed a request to help the workers.
by Chaz Bolte
Virginia’s penalties for misclassifying workers in order to avoid paying insurance costs got a boost this month thanks to a new law. The Virginia Workers Compensation Act made it easier for the state to take action against violators, according to Virginia Workplace Law:
The civil penalty is now up to $250 per day for each day of noncompliance, subject to a maximum penalty of $50,000, plus collection costs.” The VWCA requires every business owner with more than two employees (a part-time worker is counted as one employee) to have coverage for such worker.
by Matt Bruenig
Conservatives I follow on Twitter have gotten really perturbed by a recent slate of National Labor Relations Board decisions. In particular, they seem scandalized by the fact that you can’t automatically fire someone just because they said a cuss word. Even Radley “hate the cops, love the boss” Balko managed to get himself worked up about it a couple of weeks ago. Normally, I’d let this sort of thing pass, but with economic news being slow right now, I thought it might be helpful to explain why these decisions make perfect sense.
by Bruce Vail
(July 11) A bruising four-month fight between healthcare workers’ union 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and Johns Hopkins Hospital is coming to an end: Members voted on Thursday and Friday to ratify a new agreement covering about 2,000 medical center employees.
The battle has been unusually intense compared with negotiations in the past, featuring a three-day strike in April and a voracious media campaign shaming the wealthy hospital for abandoning its lowest-paid workers. And though the new contract falls short of initial demands that would have more widely boosted wages among staff, local 1199SEIU leaders still view its ratification as a welcome victory after months of struggle.
[Eds. note: Because of the relevance to the topic of how minority unions can function in the South, Talking Union is departing from its usual practice of not reposting organizational press releases. We applaud the patience and persistence of the UE's long term organizing strategy, and hope that other unions will emulate it.]
by Paul Garver
The campaign to organize Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga is taking a new and interesting direction.
The UAW has chartered Local 42 as a new local organization representing workers at the VW plant. According to the UAW press release, Local 42 will offer the workers the opportunity for a voice in the workplace similar to the VW works council system for employee representation in Germany. Calling itself “Volkswagen’s works council partner,” the union pledged to continue its advocacy for state incentives to encourage VW to expand production and create jobs at the Chattanooga plant.
Unlike the usual American labor relations system the union will not have the right to exclusive representation, nor will it represent workers other than its own members. However the UAW expects that the company will “recognize” the union once it has signed up a “meaningful” portion of its workforce as an organization that represents its own members. Since the union had dropped its NLRB challenge to the February representation election it had narrowly lost, it could no longer at this time seek formal collective bargaining rights nor the right to exclusive representation of the work force.