News & Commentary

October 24, 2014

This post is part of an ongoing of series on the fast food organizing movement. You can read all our Fast Food News here.

Slate took a skeptical view of the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board’s assertion earlier this week that McDonald’s disappointing earnings report should force fast food activists to second-guess their push for a higher minimum wage. While the article agrees that there is truth to the matter that replacing cashiers with touch-screens is the most obvious way to cut down labor costs, that has not been the case in practice, as McDonald’s has rolled out such technology in Europe without an expectation that there would be a decline in the overall workforce. When asked by Slate, McDonald’s itself explicitly said that it has no plans to reduce labor costs using touch screens, calling the Journal’s editorial “highly speculative and hypothetical,” and maintaining that the introduction of touch-screens is about customization for consumers, not automation of the chain’s labor force.

Politico’s “Morning Shift” reports on a potentially game-changing announcement to come from the National Labor Relations Board. According to the report, NLRB associate general counsel Barry Kearney recently told an employment law webinar that the agency may file a complaint this month naming McDonald’s a joint employer in a case against franchisees. This move, according to Politico would potentially complicate the landscape, since any complaint naming McDonald’s a joint employer would potentially put the corporation on the hook, but dozens of these cases against McDonald’s franchisees are already in settlement negotiations. The NLRB quickly backtracked, telling Politico that the McDonald’s cases remain in settlement discussions and there is no timeline for any complaint to be filed.  This issue has become incredibly important,as  Politico also found that the number of companies specifying joint employer status as a specific lobbying issue has multiplied eightfold since the NLRB’s general counsel announced this past July that he would seek to consider McDonald’s a joint employer in labor violation cases against franchisees. The list of companies lobbying on the issues includes the International Franchise AssociationDunkin’ Brands Inc.Burger King Corp.,Yum! Brands Inc., and the National Restaurant Association.

Speaking at a breakfast hosted by Bloomberg News, Labor Secretary Tom Perez said, “I mean, we suck,” when asked about the United States status as having the third-lowest minimum wage — as a percentage of median wage — among the 34 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Perez’s comments come in response to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s comments, covered here yesterday, that he is “tired of hearing about the minimum wage.” Secretary Perez stated that Governor Christie has “his head in the sand” if he is tired of the topic. Reporting on Secretary Perez’s comments, The Hill informed readers that an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour has become a rallying point for low-wage workers since fast food workers began striking this past September.

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