I honestly thought this ridiculous debate was over, but in 2018 I suppose everything old is new again. You may recall that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) under Barack Obama had been trying to stick a dagger in the back of McDonald’s and other large, franchise-oriented businesses by claiming that they were responsible for any HR policies implemented by their franchise holders. With new management in the White House and at the NLRB, last December that case was essentially dismissed.
Some who owe large debts to labor unions were obviously unhappy with that result and now they want to dredge the issue up yet again, just in time for the midterms. Tell me if you think the people on this list have anything in common. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), Kamala Harris (D., Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.), Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), and Cory Booker (D., N.J.). If you said they were all likely 2020 Democratic presidential contenders, give yourself a cookie and read this summary from the Free Beacon of a letter they sent to the NLRB on this subject.
[The Senators] are urging the National Labor Relations Board to hold off on settling an investigation into McDonald’s after the agency’s top ruling body vacated a decision that threatened to unravel the government’s case. The letter asked Trump-appointed general counsel Peter B. Robb, a career management-side labor attorney, to scuttle settlement negotiations given “the considerable resources the Board has already invested into the case [and] the significant public interests at stake.”
“It is imperative that you swiftly resume and finish the trial and allow the [administrative law judge] to issue a decision in this critically important case,” the letter dated Wednesday said. “Doing so would demonstrate a commitment on your part to the fair enforcement of the law and a sense of fair play.”
What’s going on here seems fairly obvious unless you’re examining the question under a strictly partisan lens. There was a joint-employer standard in place for a long time which sensibly declared that companies which lease their name and brand to franchise holders are not responsible for labor violations which are alleged at the franchise operations unless the parent company directly controls and oversees the HR decisions of those franchises. The Obama team at the NLRB wanted to overturn that standard and hold the parent corporation responsible.
It’s no secret that the labor unions (which effectively means “the Democrats”) hate McDonald’s and other large employers who resist unionization and government mandated massive minimum wage hikes. They saw this as a route to punish companies like McDonald’s for things they had no control over and this scheme was eventually rejected.
Now, in 2018, the Supreme Court appears to be on the verge of dealing a significant blow to labor unions over forced dues collection from non-members. At the same time, greater employment, rising wages, bonuses and tax cuts have made many workers less upset at the government and probably less inclined to fight against conservative concepts on behalf of the unions. That spells trouble for the Democrats, so they need to scurry up to the plate and take a few swings to show the unions that all the money they flushed into the campaigns of Democrats was still well spent.
But now the NLRB is in new hands. I will be truly shocked if they turn around now and open the door to relitigating this Obama-era debacle.