McDonalds’ Sweetheart Deal with New NLRB Gets Fried

New Orleans   McDonalds’ strategy of stiff arming its workers, having its legal staff pursue frivolous delays to run out the clock on the Obama Administration, and do anything and everything to avoid taking any responsibility for its franchisees finally ran into a road block at the hands of the NLRB Administrative Law Judge.  The ALJ, Lauren Esposito, rejected a settlement by the new NLRB General Counsel, saying in her decision that it was not “a reasonable resolution based on the nature and scope of the violations alleged and the settlements’ limited remedial impact.”  For fast food workers and the rest of the service economy, this is huge, though it’s likely not over.  Nonetheless, the situation changed from “the fix is in” to a real shot at winning once again.

This story is the NLRB equivalent of the Trump “travel ban.”  Days before a long-awaited trial on a series of serious complaints of unfair labor practices against McDonalds that had been triggered by the work of the Fight for $15 Campaign, supported by the Service Employees International Union, a newly appointed NLRB General Counsel, who is the chief staffer for the board, asked for a delay to pursue a settlement with McDonalds.  A newly appointed NLRB General Counsel, who is the chief staffer for the board, asked for a delay to pursue a settlement with McDonalds.  The company had a million opportunities to settle for years but was clearly trying to run out the clock in hoping for a more favorable climate for its business, regardless of its law breaking, so in the same way that no one really believes the travel ban was not about Muslims, no one would ever believe this so-called proposed settlement was going to be a win for workers.

The real issue is of course the degree of control corporate McDonalds had over its franchisees.  The company claimed they were essentially “strangers in the night.”  The workers and anyone who has walked into a cookie-cutter McDonalds anywhere in the US and most of the world, knows they are indistinguishable, and that goes past the menu to the uniforms and work rules and kitchen procedures.  The Obama-era General Counsel who had issued the complaint held the whole corporation responsible for the action of any of its stores and its franchisees for their labor practices.  This recommendation went to the heart of the franchise model for McDonalds and all of its wannabes in that world.

A settlement is not supposed to be approved by the NLRB or the ALJs unless it gives substantial relief in an approximate way to what might have been won as compensation and correction in a trial on the merits of the complaint.  Usually, the company’s lawyers in a settlement negotiation will draft their wish list, but the fact that the charging party or union has to agree and that the NLRB is supposed to be the arbiter of fairness in the exchange, means the settlement is in the range of reasonableness.

Everyone would have bet the ALJ was under immense pressure here to cave on the standards but looking closely at the fact that the General Counsel was allowing corporate McDonalds to guarantee nothing, including that its franchisees would actually post the notice and live up to the terms in order to protect its franchisee fiction was clearly a bridge too far.  The ALJ then rejected the proposed settlement as inadequate.

Victory is still not assured for the workers, but with the judge’s actions, at least the fight became fairer for the workers again, In this day and time, that’s a victory in itself.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Hard Changes Coming to France?

Paris   The day began with an ominously when I woke up at 2:05 AM for my 2:45 AM ride to the 3:17 AM train to Budapest. After taking a shower, I realized that in the dark, I had misread the time, and it was now 12:20 AM, not 2:20 AM. It was going to be a long day!

The 3:17 AM to Budapest was a workers’ milk run to the city. Tired men and women would slump into their seats and then immediately doze off in a practiced part of their routine. The train hit Budapest 4 minutes late, and I knew I only had 8 minutes then to find the ticket machine, get a ticket, find bus 200E and make to the airport for my 6:25 AM flight, where I could doze off in my practiced routine.

And, then on to Paris. With the election of the Macron government and his new party, Marche, which has disrupted French politics, hard changes were projected with hard fights in the future to see whether he would succeed or would the resistance.

The first change I noticed though was the McDonalds in the guts of Terminal 1 at Charles DeGaulle Airport. Of course it was huge. That was predicable, but it was also all automatic. Orders had to be placed on a eye-level robotron machine where you picked through your selection, to go or in-house, card or cash, and then went to a counter to pay and pickup, or not. Where you would think automation would mean less workers, I had never seen so many. There were people to help you learn the machine. If you were eating there, a worker brought you order to your table. Yes, to your table! Everywhere we looked there were staff people by the dozens. Our affiliates in France had been working on the McDonald’s organizing campaign and the fight for higher wages and workers’ voice there, as well as the opposing the use of GMOs, which are largely vilified in France. I noted all of this with interest, mentally tabulating the contradictions.

Meeting later in the afternoon with several union and community organizers, there seemed to be a feeling that the constant assault on long established labor rights that had endured in France for generations against almost constant attack were in real danger from the new government. Though Macron had run on a merging of left and right policy positions, and had formerly been a minister in the ruling Socialist Party before resigning to pave his own path, there seemed nothing moderate in his proposals for amending labor rights. The rigid and exacting labor rules that make it difficult to displace workers in an arbitrary fashion have long been targeted by business interests. Labor unions are girding for the fight of course, particularly the CGT, which has militantly drawn the line in the past even though a competing workers’ federation has been trying to play a more accommodating role with the new government. All other business, including new organizing, seems to have been pushed aside for the coming struggle.

Nonetheless, even if labor’s efforts were heroic, my friends seem to feel success would be defined in how much was saved compared to how much would be lost in measuring the level of the defeat, rather than optimistically predicting a victory.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail