After Hy-Brand, Protesting Workers Demand NLRB Halt McDonald’s Settlement Talks

Photo: Workers ask NLRB to halt its settlement talks with McDonald's

McDonald's cooks and cashiers demonstrated last Friday in front of the National Labor Relations Board offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago, demanding the federal government break off settlement talks with the world's largest hamburger chain in light of the NLRB's reversal of the groundbreaking Hy-Brand joint employment case.

Common Dreams, a non-profit independent news center representing union-based Fight for $15, reported that the protests were in cities where many of the original charges against McDonald's were filed for illegally firing, harassing and intimidating workers. Demonstrations were scheduled just days after the NLRB vacated its decision in the Hy-Brand case due to a significant conflict of interest of one of the Board's member's. The news report stated that NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb had cited the Hy-Brand decision earlier this year as a reason for entering into talks with McDonald's to settle the case.

One cashier from a McDonald's restaurant in the Chicago area, Adriana Alvarez, stated at a demonstration, "The federal government filed suit against McDonald's for one reason: because the company broke the law and attacked hard-working cooks and cashiers who are forced to rely on public assistance and are joining together just to be able to survive. The only thing that's changed is the fact that a Trump-appointee is now in charge and wants to settle the case under pressure from the world's second largest employer."

Common Dreams said by seeking a settlement with McDonald's after 150 days of trial and hundreds of hours of testimony, and with only two days left of trial, NLRB General Counsel Robb "is bowing to pressure from McDonald's and could be giving the company a get-out-of-jail free card for threatening, intimidating, harassing and even firing workers who stood up and demanded $15 an hour and union rights," according to the workers.

Workers are urging General Counsel Robb to allow a judge to rule on the issues at stake. Reuters reported that prior to the protest rallies, attorneys for the workers sent a letter to the NLRB general counsel calling on him to suspend the settlement talks with McDonald's "in a major case claiming the company is liable for labor law violations." The letter stated, "Given the invalidation of Hy-Brand, and the resulting reaffirmation of Browning-Farris as the authoritative Board precedent governing joint-employer determinations, the General Counsel should put further settlement discussions on hold at this time and promptly move to resume and finish the ULP trial. There can be no justification, we submit, for rushing to conclude a 'fire-sale settlement."

The National Labor Relations Board in July 2014 issued a directive that McDonald's is a joint employer with its franchisees. Subsequently, the General Counsel issued 19 consolidated complaints against McDonald's and its franchisees alleging widespread violation of workers' rights to organize for better pay and working conditions."

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