One of my partners, Liz Torphy-Donzella, recently sent me an opinion piece from the Wall Street Journal that amused me so much, I had to share it. Entitled “Big Labor’s McDonald’s Defense,” the article remarks on the fact that the Service Employees International Union, one of the most prominent unions in the United States, is fighting efforts to unionize it! (Whaaaat?!!) But wait, there’s more – although the SEIU funds the “Fight for $15” campaign, which seeks to increase the hourly minimum wage rate to $15, it pays its “Fight for $15” staff less than $15 an hour!!! (Let’s pause for a moment to let that sink in, shall we?)
And irony piles upon irony. As you may know, a major target of the “Fight for $15” is McDonalds. On the “Fight for $15” About Us webpage, McDonald’s is the only “low-wage” employer mentioned by name. And according to the Wall Street Journal article, “SEIU claims that it should be able to organize all McDonald’s workers everywhere across the country as a single bargaining unit.”
So, directly relevant to that point, a current issue pending before the National Labor Relations Board is whether McDonald’s Corporation can be deemed a joint employer of the employees of its franchisees, and therefore hauled to the bargaining table with a union that represents this collective group of franchisee employees. As we reported in our September 2014 E-Update, for many years the Board has held, and McDonald’s maintains, that a franchisor is not a joint employer of franchisee employees. A radical shift in this position occurred on July 29, 2014, when the Board’s General Counsel announced that he was issuing complaints against McDonald’s franchisees and naming McDonald’s Corporation a joint employer. (This was early on in a recent landslide of union-friendly, anti-employer actions by the Board, some of which we’ve covered in blog posts – most recently “The NLRB Changes Its Mind Again“.)
Although the SEIU supports this joint employer doctrine (and, in fact, the NLRB’s complaints arose out of unfair labor practice charges filed by the SEIU against McDonald’s franchisees that also named McDonald’s Corporation as a joint employer), it is using McDonald’s defense against the doctrine to fight the unionization attempts by the Union of Union Representatives (isn’t that a great name?). SEIU claims that it doesn’t employ the “Fight for $15” workers who protest outside McDonald’s stores across the nation. It claims that the organizers are employed by local and individual organizing committees (i.e. franchisees). Never mind that the committees are funded directly by SEIU – which apparently is not giving them enough money to pay organizers $15 an hour!
So, on its website, “Fight for $15” offers workers “15 steps for $15 an hour and the right to form a union.” But sadly, it appears that the SEIU won’t practice what it preaches.