Read The Fine Print: It Can Be Important

Last week Patxi gave us a nice personal story about his experience with McDonalds. It got me thinking about my interaction with McDonalds as a kid. It was always a treat to go to McDonalds and get chicken nuggets and French fries. After any doctors or dentist appointment I would usually get my mom to drive me to McDonalds as a reward for being so darn brave as I got my routine checkup. But as Patxi brought up last week, many times there are dark secrets underneath the surface of seemingly good companies. Of course McDonalds has already dealt with issues about the health of the food they serve in recent years as well. To keep to the theme of Patxi’s previous blog, I’ll stick to the issues of labor at McDonalds.


As I scrolled through the news stories regarding McDonalds and their labor issues, all the claims seemed legit. At McDonalds restaurants there seemed to be some cases where employees were indeed being treated poorly. Workers were forced to work off the clock, lunch breaks were cut out and at times employees had to pay out of pocket for uniforms. Although this is all true and one would feel tempted to get mad at McDonalds here, I found something that takes some blame off of McDonalds.


The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), filed numerous complaints against McDonalds in regard to many of these claims mentioned above. The NLRB claimed that McDonalds was a “joint employer”, meaning that it is responsible for all the actions that happen within its franchised restaurants. Amazingly, McDonalds restaurants are 90% franchised. The NLRB claimed that the reason they implicated McDonalds as a whole, and not the individual franchisees, was because McDonalds is so specific about controlling certain aspects of every restaurant, such as cleaning protocol and food preparation.


So, McDonalds does not support what was happening in these restaurants because it seems they didn’t do anything directly. I would assume that the issues all took place in restaurants that were run by someone who did not work directly with McDonalds. If that is the case, then McDonalds may be off the hook by some interpretations because they were not directly responsible for what happened. Sure, one could argue that McDonalds needs to ensure that their franchise owners adhere to their values. But you can’t blame McDonalds as a corporation for the actions of several poor franchise owners. If McDonalds catches these issues now and makes changes, the corporation’s reputation should not take a hit in the long run. I don’t believe that McDonalds is necessarily getting away with this scot free, but I’m saying that if you read the fine print it would be easy to reconsider vilifying McDonalds for what happened.



6 thoughts on “Read The Fine Print: It Can Be Important

  1. Your argument makes sense and I can’t help but agree with you about McDonalds not being completely at fault for all their labor problems. I simply think that people enjoy making McDonalds the butt of every joke for them to get any forgiveness. You can ask almost any person in the world what an unhealthy food choice is and they will say McDonalds. As much as it is not their fault, they have too much of a history of being the bad guy for anyone to cut them a break.


  2. I think its odd that some would think there is a disconnect between McDonald’s and individual franchisee’s actions because in the end McDonald’s is still responsible for maintaing the quality and overall operations of any given franchise. Dunkin’ Donuts is 100% franchised. The company no longer owns coporate shops and is still responsbile when something like these labor realtion problems arise. Just because the corporation does not directly own the shop does not mean they have a stake in it. At the end of the day, a corporation should always be repsonsible for the actions of the franchisee’s and the other employees, otherwise what are they there for? They would simply grant the right to build a franchise, sit back, take no risk and receive profits.


    1. I understand Spencer’s argument and agree that at times, a franchisee’s actions are out of a company’s hands. However, I am on your side in that even though a company franchises 90% of its restaurants, it would be a terrible managerial move to just build a franchise, sit back, and let the franchisee’s take the reigns. Any company, in this case McDonald’s, should absolutely be held responsible for the actions of its franchisees. Just because a franchised restaurant has a different owner, it still carries the McDonald’s name and should hence reflect the values and ideals held by the greater company.


  3. I agree wholeheartedly with your argument that this issue might rest more with the individual franchises than McDonalds. Although McDonald’s might use various employee training initiatives, its impossible to completely eliminate some franchises that will not adhere to these strict standards. Im not sure what kinds of policies McDonalds corporate has in place for labor conditions, but I can imagine they have some sort of basic manual that prescribes the ethical and legal practices they ought to carry out. There is some credibility to the argument that McDonalds as a corporation should be at fault here, but I think this is just a symptom of a company that is so large and expansive. Statistics would show that a few cases of labor abuse would essentially be inevitable.

    Also, I dont think its much of a surprise to many that McDonalds workers arent too fond of their job…its certainly not as shocking as hearing about corporations such as Apple, which are generally considered to be great places to work.


  4. I had also read somewhere before that McDonald’s really likes to control every aspect of its business, and managers have to fit the mold that they are looking for in a manager. So if in this case, a manager from McDonald’s at a restaurant outside of the franchise did something against what the upper executives are looking for, they make the change right away by finding a new manager. McDonald’s is usually very clear with what it expects from its managers, so I’m surprised to see so many sort of going their own way, but I suppose that is what happens when they are outside the 90% of restaurants within the franchise and are not under watch 24/7. Luckily, like you said, McDonald’s did end up making changes once they found out.


  5. You think it is a coincidence that hundreds or thousands of individual franchise owners all follow the same practice of time/wage theft from their employees? Oooookkkkkkayyyy.



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