In September, the National Labor Relations Board tilted to a 3-2 GOP majority for the first time in ten years. Thus began a series of Obama-era policy reversals that previously strengthened worker protections.
By December, the NLRB overturned the Obama-era “Browning-Ferris” rule. The landmark rule had made it easier for employees to hold companies liable for labor violations committed by franchise owners or contractors. Before Browning-Ferris, a company needed to have direct and immediate control over their employees. Overturning the rule had implications for a 2014 case brought against McDonald’s, one of the biggest franchises in the country.
Now, after over 150 days of testimony with only a few days of the trial remaining before the case is sent to a judge, the Trump-appointed NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb has asked the judge to pause the case against McDonald’s so that a settlement can be discussed.
The NLRB’s general counsel, in many ways, has more power over elections than the board itself, due to the general counsel’s power to decide which cases to advance. While Robb does not have the authority to dismiss the complaint entirely, he chose to settle without a joint employer decision from the judge, effectively letting McDonald’s off the hook.But because McDonalds was originally charged in 2014, before Browning-Ferris, many labor experts argue that there still is a strong case against the corporation.
“If the general counsel decides to settle, this sends a message to workers that you cannot rely on the NLRB to protect you,” Patricia Smith, senior counsel at the National Employment Law Project, told ThinkProgress when the discussions surrounding a settlement were merely rumors.
“There was already a such a strong case against McDonalds under the old rule […] in 2014 the board felt there was strong evidence of a violation workers rights and McDonalds should held accountable for it.”
The McDonalds case is crucial, as it tackles the issue of how workers should be organized and protected in a capitalist society where workplaces are increasingly fissured by franchises, outsourcing, and contracts. This stratification of the labor field frequently results in lost wages, losses typically equivalent to losing three to four weeks of earnings. For a family living paycheck to paycheck, that means a month’s worth of rent or week’s worth of groceries gone.
Confirmed by the Senate in November, Robb has already began his job of doing Trump’s bidding, choosing to protect corporations over workers. As CNN Money reports, just last week, Robb withdrew a 2017 complaint charging manufacturing conglomerate Honeywell with illegally preventing 350 union members in New York and Indiana from doing their jobs and replacing them with temps for nearly 10 months. As a result of Robb’s decision to dismiss the complaint, the workers suffered loss of wages. The complaint was originally filed by an Obama era appointee.
This article was originally published at ThinkProgress on January 19, 2018. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Rebekah Entralgo is a reporter at ThinkProgress. Previously she was a news assistant and social media coordinator at NPR, where she covered presidential conflicts of interest and ethics coverage. Before moving to Washington, she was an intern reporter at NPR member stations WLRN in Miami and WFSU in Tallahassee, Florida. She holds a B.A in Editing, Writing, and Media with a minor in political science from Florida State University.