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Will Unions Be Able to Organize Fast-Food Workers?

August 31, 2015
Plain English Version

unions NLRB

The answer is yes but not so fast.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) said the unions would have the right to organize workers at fast-food restaurants.

McDonalds and other companies say the NLRB ruling went too far.

Independent contractors often provide staff for workplaces. The workers are considered the employees of the contractor. The NLRB ruling said there are times when the workers should be considered employees of the parent company, Burger King for example.

If the ruling stands, other federal laws will kick in. For example, laws that set rules for how employers can treat workers when unions are trying to organize them. These laws protect workers from being fired for supporting the unions.

So the ruling by the NLRB is mostly about letting unions organize workers. The unions hope to win a fair election. Then they can go to the boss to bargain about wages and working conditions.

In truth, the federal courts and the Congress may be able to find ways to overturn the NLRB ruling.

What is behind the struggle? Advocates say the world of work has changed. Contractors say most of their workers are temporary. It is very difficult for unions to organize temporary workers.

The ease with which employers can discharge workers is one reason wages have stayed so low.

Labor lawyers say the right to bargain for wages and conditions is a bedrock of the American way. Should America be the land of temporary workers?

Big companies work hard to get around laws that will cost them money. They say higher wages lead to layoffs, the employment of fewer workers and more automation.

Advocates say a well-paid labor force is good for business. It creates demand for all kinds of products and services.

As expected, Democrats will be for the ruling and Republicans will be against it.

Source: The New York Times August 28, 2015

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