By Doug Porter
The struggles of low-paid employees working for fast food corporations will be in the spotlight next week as McDonald’s goes on trial at the National Labor Relations Board in New York. The case threatens the economic model for the company (and most franchise-based companies), which passes off daily operational responsibilities to franchise holders for 90% of its locations under a regimented program.
The company’s reaction to the campaign for better wages in the fast food industry in recent years opened it up to charges it violated labor laws. Now the NLRB will decide the question of whether or not corporate shares responsibility with local operators for the wages and working conditions of front-line employees.
The NLRB has reportedly called on high-level executives from McDonald’s corporate offices, hoping to show they helped coordinate franchisee response to the SEIU-backed fast food strikes in 2012.
An article in the Huffington Post revealed Senior V.P. of Human Resources Heather Smedstad boasting on her publicly available LinkedIn profile that she “insulated” the McDonald’s “system against a nationwide labor organizing effort, including extensive training of 10K+ people on labor relations and wage/hour compliance.”
It isn’t often that a franchisor like McDonald’s is held accountable for labor law violations at its stores. Roughly 90 percent of McDonald’s locations are technically run by franchisees — the much smaller companies or individuals who tend to the day-to-day operations and ultimately sign workers’ paychecks. According to McDonald’s, it’s the franchisee who’s responsible for the working conditions inside a McDonald’s store.
The Fight for $15, which is funded by the Service Employees International Union, has challenged that entire premise. It argues that McDonald’s really is the boss inside stores, exerting control over workers through the menu, the supplies and uniforms, the training materials, and even computer programs that determine labor costs. The franchise model, it says, merely helps the company shirk its duties to workers, by shifting legal liabilities onto franchisees when workers get shorted on pay or fired for union activism.
If they succeed at trial and prove that McDonald’s has a significant hand in setting the working conditions, then McDonald’s could be punished for violating the workers’ rights. The fast-food company would find itself answering to workers at franchised stores in a way it never had to before.
Hey McDonald’s! Working While Sick is Not Right
The California Labor Federation is calling out McDonald’s for refusing to follow state law allowing paid sick leave.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez successfully shepherded AB 1522 (The Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014) through the legislature despite opposition from various business groups.
The law says any employee who, on or after July 1, 2015, worked in California for 30 or more days within a year from the beginning of employment, is entitled to paid sick leave. Employees, including part-time and temporary employees, earn at least one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked.
McDonald’s employee Rosangela Bañuelos called in to take a day off because she wasn’t feeling well. She had easily acquired the necessary time. The company said no.
The Los Angeles branch of Fight for 15 is circulating a petition hoping to make the company acknowledge its responsibilities under the law.
Oregon Militia Takeover Flailing
An armed group calling itself Citizens for Constitutional Freedom has been holed up inside a wildlife sanctuary eastern Oregon since January 2nd, supposedly protesting the arson conviction of two local cattle ranchers who set fires to federal lands.
The local ranchers–who reported for their jail time his week–have disavowed the group. Area residents are aghast at the national attention. The leaders of the Burns Paiute tribe, whose ancestors fought and died over portions of that land long before the ranchers and farmers had it, have said “Go Home.”
The federal government, which closed many offices in Eastern Oregon three days before the takeover as a precaution against expected violence, is biding its time, not wanting to give this motley crew the martyrdom they’re seeking.
A Facebook plea by the occupiers for snacks and supplies led users at social media site Reddit to ship not-so-caring care packages, including diapers and glitter.
And it turns out that the greatest enemy of these so-called freedom fighters may be themselves. Two of their leaders have been called out by [British!] media for falsely claiming to be ex-Marines. Another was caught using donations to fuel a weekend bender. A fist fight sent one participant to the hospital to be treated for a concussion and serious facial injuries.
Progressive Calendar: Upcoming in San Diego
Peter Case Kicks off his West Coast Tour at The GO!
Friday, January 8 at 7:30pm
Grassroots Oasis (Old Town)
Updates & Info
We have a very special show for you to kick off the new year, as the Grassroots Oasis welcomes 3-time Grammy nominee Peter Case to our intimate environs. Seated, indoor show starts about 8p.
Rally & Petition Gathering for Rent Control
Saturday, January 9 at Noon
City Heights Weingart Library
3795 Fairmount Ave, San Diego
Updates & Info
Join Sandra Galindo and the San Diego Socialist Campaign as we rally and collect petitions for rent control in San Diego and support Sandra’s campaign for City Council in 2016
Progressive Investigative Journalist Greg Palast in San Diego
Greg Palast, an internationally-known relentless progressive voice who has been called the “most important investigative reporter of our time – up there with Woodward and Bernstein” (The Guardian) is coming to San Diego to do a fundraising meet and greet for KNSJ.
Palast has broken front-page stories for BBC Television Newsnight, The Guardian, Nation Magazine, Rolling Stone and Harper’s Magazine. His books have been translated into two dozen languages and has led investigations of multi-billion-dollar frauds in the oil, nuclear, power and finance industries for governments on three continents, is the author of Democracy and Regulation, a seminal treatise on energy corporations and government control, commissioned by the United Nations and based on his lectures at Cambridge University and the University of São Paulo.
This is a great opportunity for people to be able to meet this internationally-known journalist.
Report from Guantanamo Cuba
Monday, January 11th at 6:30pm
Updates & Info
A 60-person delegation with the peace group CODEPINK recently returned from a trip to Cuba and Joni Craig, Josan Feathers and Martha Sullivan from San Diego were among the delegates. The group attended the 4th International Conference on Peace and the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases from November 23- 25, 2015 in Guantanamo, Cuba. The purpose of the delegation was to represent the United States at the conference, celebrate the increased diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba, and to join the Cuban call for the closure of the US navy base and the return of the land to the Cubans.
Join Joni, Josan and Martha to hear (and see) about: our journey to Guantanamo and the town closest to our U.S. Base there; the international conference with activists from throughout the world pushing back against U.S. encroachment on their sovereignty and environmental resources; and what YOU can do to help Shut Down the U.S. Prison and Base at Guantanamo, Cuba!
Time to Build Trust – Support Ballot Proposal For Changes To City Citizens Review Board
Wednesday, January 13 at 9-11:30am
San Diego City Hall
202 C Street, San Diego
A Ballot Proposal has been filed with the San Diego City Clerk on behalf of 20 civic organizations who endorse a Charter Amendment for a truly independent Community Review Board on Police Practices. On January 13, 2016, at 9am, the City Council’s Rules Committee will consider Ballot Proposals submitted in accordance with City Council Policy 000-21, and whether to refer to the full City Council for placement on the 2016 Ballot.
We need a BIG turnout to show the Rules Committee that San Diegans need to be given the opportunity to vote on this! Please arrive early to get though ground floor security and obtain a seat in the 12th Floor Committee Room, which is smaller than the Council Chambers on the same floor. We will have volunteers to help you get signed up in Support and give you a small sign to hold.
Honoring Dr. King at the All Peoples Celebration
Monday, January 18th, 9am – Noon
Balboa Park Activity Center, 2145 Park Blvd, San Diego
Updates & Info
Tickets for Seated Brunch and Program starting at 10 am: Tickets are $50 each and available at www.alliancesd.org/apc2016.
Please note that tickets are limited and will NOT be sold at the door.
Alliance San Diego invites you to join us in honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Now in its 28th year, the All Peoples Celebration is the preeminent event in San Diego County where more than 1,000 business leaders, elected officials, faith leaders, community organizers, artists, and students come together for an inspiring program and common goal of honoring the work and the sacrifice of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The program will be a dynamic commemoration of the Civil Rights Movement, featuring local musical and spoken word artists, multimedia presentations, and visionary speakers. John Carlos Frey, a multiple Emmy Award-winning investigative journalist, will keynote.
He will be joined in the program by our community speaker, San Diego Community College District Chancellor Constance Carroll, whose work to increase access to higher education also embodies Dr. King’s ideals. The program will also include inspiring performances by local musicians and spoken word artists including two-time San Diego Music award winners, Kendrick Dial & Lyrical Groove.
Gathering in Solidarity with Muslim Women
Monday, January 18th at 2pm
Balboa Park, 6th & Laurel
Updates & Info
After the recent horrific terrorist attacks, many Muslim women, particularly those who wear the hijab or headscarf, have been targeted as victims of hate crimes and discrimination across the nation and in our very own city of San Diego.
Join The League of Women Voters and The Islamic Center of San Diego for a Gathering in Solidarity with Muslim Women
Wear your headscarf and come show support! Additional scarves will be provided.We will be joined by our friends of many faiths and backgrounds. All are welcome.
On This Day: 1811 – The largest slave revolt in U.S. history began on Louisiana sugar plantations. Slaves armed with hand tools marched toward New Orleans, setting plantations and crops on fire, building their numbers to an estimated 300-500 as they went. The uprising lasted for two days before being brutally suppressed by the military 1925 – Russian composer Igor Stravinsky appeared in his first American concert. He conducted the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in a program of his own compositions. 1975 – Ella Grasso became the governor of Connecticut. She was the first woman to become a governor of a state without a husband preceding her in the governor’s chair.
Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to “The Starting Line” and get an email every time a new article in this series is posted!
I read the Daily Fishwrap(s) so you don’t have to… Catch “the Starting Line” Monday thru Friday right here at San Diego Free Press (dot) org. Send your hate mail and ideas to DougPorter@SanDiegoFreePress.Org Check us out on Facebook and Twitter.