Amid claims of wrongful termination, labor unions take aim at McDonald's Corp.

Labor unions play an important role in our democratic society. For years, unions have been advocating for and protecting employees when it comes to workplace safety, employee benefits and fair wages. There is power in numbers and labor unions provide a voice for employees whose concerns would otherwise fall on deaf ears and go unaddressed. Given the purpose and power of U.S. labor unions, it's no surprise that some corporations and businesses discourage or ban employees from forming them.

McDonald's Corp. is the most recent company to be accused of wrongfully terminating employees for joining labor unions. Recently the Fast Food Workers Committee, a labor group advocating for higher wages for New York City fast food workers, filed a lawsuit against the fast-food giant for wrongful terminations that occurred at franchise locations in and around New York City.

Since its formation, McDonald's Corp. has relied upon a franchise model to largely avoid disputes and lawsuits related to employee wages, benefits and working conditions. While the company contends individual franchise owners establish and control employee-related matters, labor rights advocates argue the corporate giant essentially regulates every component of its franchise business including the wages and schedules of employees.

In the lawsuit, McDonald's Corp., along with the owners of the specific franchises, are accused of "suspending employees, cutting their hours and threatening them with termination for union activities." The average American fast food worker earns only roughly $9 per hour, making it difficult to live and support a family in any part of the country much less major metropolitan areas like Los Angeles or New York City.

The decision in this case could not only have a significant impact on McDonald's Corp., its business practices and its employees, but also on other corporations who attempt to hide behind the franchise model to avoid responsibility for labor-related issues.

Source: Bloomberg, "Workers Say McDonald’s Fired Them for Union Activity," Leslie Patton, July 18, 2014

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