The 14,000-ton freight train could not come to a stop. But the women laid down between the rails and survived.
McDonald’s could be held liable for wage-and-hour violations, and for obstructing union organizing, at its thousands of franchise restaurants across the country.
The National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel has ruled that McDonald’s can be considered a "joint-employer" along with its franchise owners in labor-law complaints, because the parent company plays a significant role in employment practices for fast-food workers at the franchisee-operated stores, which constitute 90 percent of the chain’s restaurants.
If upheld in subsequent NLRB proceedings (and further legal appeals, should there be any, by McDonald’s and its franchisees), the ruling could mean McDonald’s is legally responsible when franchise owners shortchange workers or lay them off after they protest for higher wages. The theory is that McDonald’s in part determines wage levels, work rules and scheduling patterns via the contracts it sets with franchisees, as well as the labor-management software and guidance it provides to maximize store-profitability.
Complaints about worker treatment in the ongoing campaign for $15-an-hour pay at fast-food restaurants, and for union representation, have been brought by the advocacy group Fast Food Forward, which is supported by the Service Employees International Union.
There are also class-action lawsuits being pursued in three states (California, New York and Michigan) over alleged violations by McDonald’s and its franchise owners. A lawyer for the class-action plaintiffs in California, Michael Rubin at Altshuler Berzon in San Francisco, said the NLRB ruling would strengthen those cases, which are also based on ‘joint-employer’ claims.
Meanwhile, a federal court in California has held Wal-Mart to be a joint-employer of temporary warehouse workers in a class-action lawsuit based on a similar argument — that Wal-Mart controls the employment conditions in the supply chain in which subcontractors and temporary staffing agencies operate.
Christine Owens of the National Employment Law Project says the NLRB and some courts are acknowledging the increasing use of contingent and temporary workers in the corporate ecosystem that many large corporations create around them.
These recent interpretations of U.S. labor law, says Owens, may be “catching up with how the economy is changing. So many working people are no longer employed by the company that appears to be the main employer. There’s more than one employer really calling the shots.”
McDonald’s has vowed to fight the NLRB ruling, saying its franchisees set wages and working conditions. A statement from the company says the decision "goes against decades of established law regarding the franchise model in the United States."
Groups representing restaurant owners and franchisees have also blasted the decision, saying it jeopardizes the franchising system.
But former Penn State labor-law professor Ellen Dannin, author of "Taking Back the Workers’ Law," isn’t so sure.
“People seemed a little over the top” in their reactions to the NLRB general counsel’s determination, she said. “Just because the general counsel has issued a complaint doesn’t necessarily lead to the kinds of problems that they’re worried about.”
Dannin also expressed skepticism that the ruling, linking McDonald’s more directly to labor relationships and conditions at its franchises, will necessarily make union organizing against chains like McDonald’s any easier.
It's hard to imagine where the two circles of "Marketplace coverage" and "Sharknado" intersect on a venn diagram. But overlap they do, and in suprisingly relevant ways.
That's because the SyFy network's made-for-tv movie is something of a phenomenon from a financial perspective. With a relatively small budget — around $1-2 million — it grew from a disappointing first airing to internet sensation to big screen flick.
"Everybody asks, you know, why did this happen?" says director Anthony C. Ferrante. "You can't ask why; it's 'Sharknado.' It's a movie about sharks and a tornado, and it just hit everybody's sweet spot for whatever reason this summer."
It didn't hit a sweet spot for actor Ian Ziering initially. That is, until health insurance came into play.
Ziering was reluctant to star in the original film, but when his wife urged him to consider the union health insurance he would be eligible for by doing the movie, he reconsidered.
With a pregnant wife, Ziering put down his reservations about the cheesy script, and picked up a shark chainsaw.
So it turns out Sharknado isn't just a story about a tornado dropping sharks from the sky.
It's about financial success, crowdsourced marketing and health care. Go figure.
By the way, Sharknado 2 premieres Wednesday.
The news from the Commerce Department comes after the economy shrank at a 2.1 percent rate in the first quarter of the year. The numbers raise hope for continued growth in the second half of 2014.