The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Jennifer Owens,, 312-218-8785

McDonald's Workers to NLRB: Let the Judge Decide

Days after the NLRB reverses critical employment decision, cooks, cashiers protest, demanding halt to settlement talks in groundbreaking workers’ rights case.


McDonald's cooks and cashiers protested Friday at National Labor Relations Board offices in Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco, demanding the federal government cease settlement talks with the company in a groundbreaking case that seeks to hold the burger giant responsible for illegal retaliation against workers who joined together to call for $15 and union rights.

The protests in cities where many of the original charges against McDonald's for illegally firing, harassing and intimidating workers were filed comes days after the Board vacated its decision in the Hy-Brand case because one of its members had a significant conflict of interest. NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb had cited the Hy-Brand decision earlier this year as a reason for entering into talks with McDonald's to settle the case.

"The federal government filed suit against McDonald's for one reason: because the company broke the law and attacked hard-working cooks and cashiers who are forced to rely on public assistance and are joining together just to be able to survive," said Adriana Alvarez, a cashier at a Chicago-area McDonald's. "The only thing that's changed is the fact that a Trump-appointee is now in charge and wants to settle the case under pressure from the world's second largest employer."

By seeking a settlement with the company after 150 days of trial and hundreds of hours of testimony--and with just two days of trial remaining-- Mr. Robb is bowing to pressure from McDonald's and could be giving the company a get-out-of-jail free card for threatening, intimidating, harassing and even firing workers who stood up and demanded $15 an hour and union rights, workers argued.

Instead of walking away from a case NLRB lawyers have spent several years prosecuting, workers Friday urged the general counsel to allow the judge to rule on the issues at stake. The protests follow a letter sent to Mr. Robb by fast-food workers' attorneys earlier this week calling on him to suspend the settlement talks.

"Given the invalidation of Hy-Brand, and the resulting reaffirmation of Browning-Ferris as the authoritative Board precedent governing joint-employer determinations, the General Counsel should put further settlement discussions on hold at this time and promptly move to resume and finish the ULP trial," the letter states. "There can be no justification, we submit, for rushing to conclude a 'fire-sale' settlement."

The Labor Board's Hy-Brand reversal puts the Obama-era Browning-Ferris standard back into effect, making it easier for workers to hold big companies like McDonald's jointly responsible for workplace violations along with their franchisees. The workers case was initially brought under a pre- Browning-Ferris standard, and workers believed they had a strong case even after Hy-Brand became the law. Now that Browning-Ferris is once again the standard, the case should be evaluated under the new standard, the workers' attorneys argued in their letter to Mr. Robb.

In July 2014, the Labor Board's General Counsel issued a directive that McDonald's is a joint employer with its franchisees - a finding that the New York Times described as "a potentially disabling blow to the low-wage, anti-union business model of McDonald's and other fast-food giants." He issued 19 consolidated complaints against McDonald's and its franchisees alleging widespread violations of workers' rights to organize for better pay and working conditions.

Fast food workers are coming together all over the country to fight for $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation. We work for corporations that are making tremendous profits, but do not pay employees enough to support our families and to cover basic needs like food, health care, rent and transportation.