Is the National Labor Relations Board ruling a game changer for workers?
Unions, labor advocates and key players in warehousing, construction, fast food and home healthcare are brainstorming strategies in the wake of a recent National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling.
The NLRB said in mid-August that a Silicon Valley recycling center was a "joint employer" along with the staffing agency that provided the center’s workers. The ruling determined that companies using workers hired by another business are still responsible for labor violations and could be required to bargain with unions representing those employees.
The ruling is the latest example of gains made by labor groups advocating for better pay in traditionally minimum-wage industries such as retail and fast food. Until now, the NLRB has been reluctant to redefine dual employer status, relying on the precedent that a company must exercise "direct and immediate" control over the workplace in order to qualify as a dual employer.
In light of the new ruling, franchisers like McDonald’s could potentially be held liable for hiring and firing decisions made by an individual franchisee. Routine business decisions like firing a contractor or structuring operations can now be examined in light of how they affect union organizing efforts.
"It’s a seismic shift," said Victor Narro, project director at the UCLA Labor Center, to the Los Angeles Times. "This is not focused just on labor organizing, but every kind of labor law."
Aftershocks in the American workforce are expected. Companies still affected by the recession have increasingly turned to temporary workers, who can be shed at a moment’s notice.
"The rise of franchising, contracting and other similar employment practices has made it harder to enforce worker protections like minimum wages, overtime pay and the right to unionize," wrote Rep. Jan Schakowsky, U.S. Representative for Illinois’s ninth congressional district on the Huffington Post’s Politics blog. "Employers who help set those rules will no longer be able to utilize temp agencies or contractors to evade their responsibilities to workers who provide services or create goods on their behalf. This isn’t just a win for workers — it’s a win for businesses that do right by their employees because it requires their competitors to rise to their standard."
The case is not closed, however. According to Forbes, two NLRB members, Philip A. Miscimarra and Harry Johnson, excoriated the majority in a 28-page dissent.
"The Board is not Congress," they wrote. "It can only exercise the authority Congress has given it. In this instance, our colleagues have announced a new test of joint-employer status based on policy and economic interests that Congress has expressly prohibited the Board from considering."
- NLRB ruling on third-party employers could be a game changer for unions – Los Angeles Times (tiered sub)
- Companies are on the hook for contractors’ labor policies, NLRB says – Los Angeles Times (tiered sub)
- NLRB Rules in Favor of Teamsters in ‘Joint Employer’ Case – National Legal and Policy Center
- Controversial NLRB Ruling Could End Contract Employment As We Know It – Forbes
- NLRB Joint Employer Ruling, Good for Workers and Businesses – Huffington Post
- NLRB Decision on review and direction – NLRB
- National Labor Relations Board
Do you approve or disapprove with the NLRB’s ruling on “joint-employer” status? Do you expect the ruling to stand? Who really wins and who really loses long-term if it does stand?