The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is considering broadening the joint-employer standard from having direct control over working conditions to exercising indirect and potential control over working conditions. While unions – including the Service Employees International Union, one of the main forces behind the Fight for $15 campaign – generally support this move, franchisees all across the nation are voicing their dissent.
This issue gained momentum last year when the NLRB’s general counsel issued consolidated complaints against McDonald’s alleging that the fast food corporation was responsible for certain franchisees violating the rights of employees. In another case the preceding year, a California federal judge ruled that Wal-Mart was responsible for its warehouse workers even though they were hired by a subcontractor’s staffing agency.
Many franchisees claim that an expansion of the joint-employer definition would only serve to give corporations unnecessary control over their businesses. Contrary to common belief, not all franchises require their franchisees to adhere to strict guidelines. Some, such as Canadian fast food franchise Freshii, allow franchisees to set their own policies and wages and ultimately act as independent owner-operators.
In an effort to distinguish themselves from being labeled joint employers, some franchisees are sharing their stories of entrepreneurship and independence from franchisers. The Veldman brothers, for instance, successfully expanded their carpet and upholstery cleaning business into packing and storing and other services in spite of the protests of ServiceMaster Global, their franchiser.
The renowned New York business and franchise attorneys at The Internicola Law Firm, P.C. commend these hardworking and innovative franchisees for pushing back against expansion of the joint-employer definition, which could destabilize the franchise system as we know it, causing grief to many business owners. We hope that the NLRB hears their voices and makes the right decision.