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.