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Murray: NLRB doing its job by protecting McDonald’s workers

murray-pattyWASHINGTON, D.C. (Feb. 6, 2015) — Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) on Thursday applauded the National Labor Relations Board’s efforts to protect the rights of fast-food workers in a case where the NLRB determined McDonald’s to be a “joint employer” alongside franchise owners. The case could make fast-food chains responsible for the labor violations at their restaurants and facilitate union organizing among what are among the lowest-paid jobs with the fewest benefits in America.

Senate Republicans called Thursday’s hearing to criticize the NLRB’s determination as an overreach that harms small businesses. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, said it would “destroy a small business opportunity for more than 700,000 Americans.”

But Sen. Murray, the committee’s ranking Democratic member, said such criticism was “putting big corporations and their profits ahead of working families.” She added:

The parent company of a franchise can dictate pricing and store hours. It can prohibit collective bargaining and it can monitor, in real time, worker hours and staffing levels. And yet, the parent company can put all the liability for poor working conditions and low wages squarely on the shoulders of its franchise owners. And without collective bargaining rights, workers have no recourse for improving these workplace conditions.

This arrangement can also hurt franchise owners. These small business owners face pressure in bidding for franchise licenses and they struggle to manage under corporate rules. That’s not good for workers. It’s not good for franchise owners. And, it lets some major corporations have it both ways. They can squeeze both workers and small business owners, while they make record profits. And they get to escape all liability for low wages and poor working conditions.

kono-mcdonalds-franchisesSen. Murray noted that while the labor market has changed over the past 30 years, it should not be the end of basic worker protections or the ability to earn a living wage.

Shortly after the NLRB’s McDonald’s determination was announced last fall, the AFL-CIO reported that the joint employer doctrine could be applied not only to fast-food franchises and franchise arrangements in other industries, but also to other practices companies use to avoid directly employing their workers, such as subcontracting, outsourcing and using temporary employment agencies.

“Companies are increasingly using these kinds of arrangement to distance themselves from their workers and shield themselves from liability as employers,” said AFL-CIO Legal Counsel Sarah Fox. “These are the devices they use so that they can get the benefit of the work the employees do, but say ‘I’m not responsible’ for unfair labor practices, health and safety violations, paying proper employment taxes or complying with other legal responsibilities of an employer.”

At Thursday’s hearing, Sen. Murray called on Republicans and Democrats to work together on policies that create jobs, generate broad-based economic growth, and expand economic security for all workers and families. Here are her opening remarks from the hearing:


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