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McDonald's Is Still Fighting Joint Employer Ruling, Employee Wage Increases

The chain is trying to get a subpoena for documents thrown out.

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While McDonald's sales have improved for the first time since 2013, the chain's battles are far from over. According to Reuters, the corporation has asked a federal judge to throw out a massive subpoena from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). McDonald's is currently fighting the NLRB's ruling that McDonald's is a "joint employer" of franchise workers.

In May, the NLRB found that McDonald's corporation can be held liable for the working conditions — including low wages — at any of its restaurants, even those owned by independent franchisees. McDonald's argued in federal court against the joint employer ruling, saying that the company is a "victim of a union-orchestrated attack on its brand."

McDonald's notes in the filing that it has spent over $1 million "producing over 160,000 pages of documents in response" to the subpoena, something the company's lawyers are calling "the most burdensome in the history" of the company. The NLRB's subpoena — which is asking for documents and emails from more than 50 McDonald's employees and executives — is seeking information on "McDonald's involvement in countering union-backed nationwide protests," such as those led by the Fight for 15 movement, which seeks a $15 per hour minimum wage for fast food workers.

If McDonald's is found liable for "alleged labor violations" at 29 franchises across five states, the company says it will owe no more than $50,000. While the payout is chump change for the large corporation, the reason McDonald's is fighting the allegations is due to what it will mean if the measure passes. Currently, McDonald's corporate has limited power over its franchised units. If held liable, McDonald's employees would be able to unionize for the first time in the company's history. McDonald's would then be forced to bargain with unions, and fast food workers would likely benefit from the ability to demand higher wages.

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