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What makes an employer an employer? Ruling clears the way for more workers to organize

Let's be honest about what the world of franchising amounts to these days: It's often an elaborate scheme to let big businesses make big money without doing anything so tawdry as take care of their workers.

Let’s be honest about what the world of franchising amounts to these days: It’s often an elaborate scheme to let big businesses make big money without doing anything so tawdry as take care of their workers.
Take McDonald’s, for example. The company maintains strict control over many items at franchisee restaurants - including how employees do their work during the day. An employee can be fired if they don’t follow McDonald’s corporate-imposed rules in a franchise restaurant. Common sense tells you that anybody who dictates the rules of your employment - and thus decides if you’ll keep that employment - is your boss. This isn’t complicated.
Same for Uber. There’s a lot to love about the ride-sharing company. But the company succeeds, in part, by shifting costs to drivers - the purchasing of cars, gasoline and more. When all the expenses are taken out, the rate of pay is such that it amounts to little more than pocket change.
Let’s be clear what the NLRB ruling does and doesn’t do: It doesn’t force McDonald’s to pay $15 an hour. It doesn’t force Uber to compensate drivers for expenses. It merely says that workers for those businesses can organize into unions - and that businesses have to talk to those unions. It orders no concessions or change to the business model. It just means that companies have to listen when their employees say they need more.
Shocking, isn’t it? The conservative vision of capitalism is that bosses offer a job and a wage, take it or leave it. The liberal version suggests a
third way: It involves negotiation. There’s nothing uncapitalistic about it, unless you decide workers have little or no freedom of action to decide their own fates.

Joel Mathis ( joelmmathis@gmail.com ) is associate editor for Philadelphia Magazine. Visit Ben Boychuk and Mathis on Facebook: facebook.com/benandjoel.

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