News & Commentary

December 22, 2014

According to a Gallup poll released Monday, Americans are showing the most optimism about the availability of quality jobs than at any time since the Great Recession began in 2008.  About 36% of respondents said this was a good time to find a quality job, the survey found.  Although respondents said they have a more upbeat view of the labor market, 61% said it was a bad time to find a quality job.  Still, the figure was an improvement over 66% in November and 73% a year ago, Gallup said.

Following the recent NLRB ruling about McDonald’s status as a “joint employer,” which has been covered by OnLabor, Forbes advises that McDonald’s should “learn a labor lesson” from Starbucks and Chipotle.  Forbes believes that Chipotle and Starbucks are two chains that have avoided similar problems, while maintaining high levels of service quality.  Chipotle has streamlined its operations, “focusing on a few core products which can be provided in an assembly-style production process,” while Starbucks treats employees as “human assets that should be amassed one at a time, and treated with respect.”  These changes could boost McDonald’s labor productivity, allow the company to raise wages, and improve overall employee satisfaction.

In further McDonald’s commentary, the Wall Street Journal reports that Richard Griffin, the National Labor Relations Board general counsel, appears to be teeing up the NLRB’s bigger bonanza that may come as early as Monday.”  Mr. Griffin is holding the corporate entity liable because “through its franchise relationship and its use of tools, resources and technology,” McDonald’s “engages in sufficient control over its franchisees’ operations.”  The Wall Street Journal writes that the words “sufficient” and “operations,” which amount to a radical change in labor law.  Charging McDonald’s as a “joint-employer” upends the NLRB’s 30-year-old “significant control” standard set forth in the 1984 Laerco Transportation case.  Under this suggested new standard, franchise companies would be “on the hook” for workers at its franchisees, effectively gutting the franchise model.  

The New York Times Editorial Board also weighed in on the NLRB’s decision about McDonald’s, saying that the Fight for $15 protest movement is ending the year on a high note because of the decision.  The Editorial Board writes: “In the face of the protests, McDonald’s and other low-wage employers continue to defend abysmally low pay despite healthy corporate profits. But they are able to pay less than subsistence wages — and boost their corporate bottom lines — because taxpayers are picking up the tab to help the workers in the form of tax credits for the working poor, food stamps and other public aid.”

Politico writes that labor is currently going through a “big comeback” thanks to two “out-of-the-way corners of the Obama administration whose default posture in recent memory has been paralysis.”  The article discusses the NLRB’s recent joint-employer decision, and the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division initiating “significantly more of its investigations (as opposed to responding to worker complaints), and identifying violations at a much higher rate” in 2014.

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