The Fight for Fifteen is back. Union organizers running the campaign designed to secure $15 per hour wages for fast-food workers announced on Labor Day that fast-food employees will walk off the job this Thursday in approximately 150 cities across the country. The organizers expect that major fast-food hotspots Burger King, McDonalds, and Wendy’s will be hit hard by labor shortages.
Thursday’s planned strike, organized and underwritten primarily by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), comes on the heels of a July meeting held in Chicago where over 1,000 fast-food workers met to discuss their working conditions. During the meeting, workers agreed to ramp up their efforts to win higher wages. It is likely that some protesters will resort to civil disobedience.
The New York Times is reporting that sit-ins are planned in more than a dozen cities. A Burger King employee was more blunt, stating that he would be willing to go to jail for the cause.
“On Thursday, we are prepared to take arrests to show our commitment to the growing fight for $15,” said Terrence Wise, a Burger King employee in Kansas City, Mo., and a member of the fast-food workers’ national organizing committee.
For his part, the President seems to have thrown his support behind the Fight for Fifteen. Speaking at an event in Milwaukee, WI yesterday, the President mentioned the Fight for Fifteen campaign, noting that “America deserves a raise.”
The Fight for Fifteen’s escalation in tactics follows the National Labor Relations Board’s decision in late July to authorize a complaint against McDonald’s franchises and its franchisor, McDonald’s USA, LLC. As we reported earlier this summer, the Board’s General Counsel’s decision to issue a complaint against McDonald’s USA, LLC as a joint-employer respondent is at odds with decades of legal precedent.
Despite the radical nature of the charges, labor watchers were not surprised by the GC’s move. Earlier this year, the Board solicited amicus briefs in a case styled Browning-Ferris Industries concerning whether the NLRB should change its current “joint-employer” standard (which is now more than 30 years old). In that case, the GC’s brief argued that the Board should discard the existing standard, which asks whether two or more employers “share or co-determine matters governing essential terms and conditions of employment,” for a more amorphous and undefined standard, which would purportedly consider the “totality of the circumstances.” (McKenna Long & Aldridge also filed an amicus brief in that case on behalf of the Retail Litigation Center).
With the state of the law regarding joint-employer status hanging in the balance, both management side and employee side factions will be watching the Board’s path forward carefully. A decision blessing the General Counsel’s legal analysis that McDonald’s USA, LLC is a joint-employer with its franchises would likely give the Fight for Fifteen (and its SEIU backers) a huge leg up in the current wage row.
More troubling for employers outside of the fast-food context, however, is the thought that the Board will abandon over 30 years of precedent and change its joint-employer standard. The current standard gives employers a high degree of certainty when establishing business relations. But the GC’s proposed standard would throw that sense of stability out the window by asking whether two or more entities should be deemed joint-employers based on the “totality of the circumstances.”
In sum, labor watchers can expect some major decisions from the Board in the coming weeks and months. Stay tuned to @LRToday for updates.