We recently reported on the fast moving changes in the US labour scene – specifically the franchisee/franchisor relationship in the context of employer duties and responsibilities towards their workforce. A theme that has spread from the EU to the US, employers are having to deal head on with the principles of engagement, flexibility and responsibility when managing and relating to their workforce.
We reported the fact that the long held view that the franchisor was not jointly responsible for unlawful treatment of the franchisee’s employees may no longer be the case, with the National Labor Relations Board General Counsel authorising the issuing of unfair labor practice complaints against McDonald’s USA (franchisor) alleging that they, and its franchisees jointly employ the workers, and were therefore jointly liable.
This situation has arisen out of workers protesting about their wages in November 2012. Fast forward to September 2014 and the workers have held their biggest strike to date (the 7th) against US fast food outlets (McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Burger King, KFC…) in respect of their pay and healthcare, calling for the raising of the minimum wage to $15 (£9.24) from $7.25 (£4.46). There has been a hotting up in the willingness of workers to participate in non-violent peaceful protests and arrests. Guess who is backing these strikes? Correct. The unions. The current climate has sparked debate over the true driving force behind the protests in light of suggestions of paid demonstrators. The added momentum of the recent National Labor Relations Board General Counsel’s authorisation appears to have galvanised workers in their quest for higher pay.
On 4 September 2014 sit ins and marches occurred outside fast food restaurants across more than 100 cities resulting in hundreds of arrests. Obama has recently been expressing his views towards upping the US national minimum wage too, following his executive order in February this year requiring federal contractors to up the minimum wage to $10.10 (£6.22) next year, and some states have already raised their minimum wage.
Here we see not only the issue of responsibility rearing its head, but also the issue of engagement. As we all know, a big factor in what gets employees out of bed and into work, is pay, and the amount of pay. Employees feel less engaged when they feel they are not being remunerated appropriately – who do they look to in order to address these issues? This is the key question. As we recently reported, looking to the economic reality of the employment relationship may be part of the new test for responsibility in the franchise arena, specifically McDonald’s for example – could they soon be included in the collective bargaining process with unions being able to target the McDonald’s machine and not just the individual cogs?
With the President backing an increase, with workers expressing their opinions more actively, with unions supporting those workers, and with the National Labor Relations Board General Counsel’s recent authorisation, it is undeniable that the labour landscape in the US is changing. Employers are going to have to engage with their responsibilities towards their employees to be rewarded with reciprocal engagement. The story goes on….