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In Federal Labor Disputes, McDonald's Just Became the Boss of Its Franchise Workers

In Federal Labor Disputes, McDonald's Just Became the Boss of Its Franchise Workers
Photograph by Tim Boyle/Bloomberg

The fast-food business model just suffered a blow. The top prosecutor for the federal labor board has rejected McDonald’s claim that it’s not the boss of the workers in its franchised stores.

Within the past 21 months—the period in which strikes by fast-food workers went from unheard-of to increasingly common—union-backed McDonald’s workers have brought 181 charges before the National Labor Relations Board. On Tuesday the NLRB general counsel’s office announced it had found dozens of allegations with enough merit to pursue. And, more important, the general counsel directed NLRB officials to treat McDonald’s as a defendant alongside the franchisees running the stores. Giving McDonald’s shared responsibility for how franchisees treat workers could force corporate headquarters to get involved more closely with everything from potential unionization to wages.