Burger King Franchise Isn't Allowed To Union-Bust Anymore, How Is That Even Fair
Good news from the Burger Wars! A National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) judge ruled Monday that a Burger King franchise owner with 22 restaurantsviolated federal labor laws in several union-busting actions. The decision by Judge Arthur J. Amchan found that franchise company EYM King had illegally threatened a worker for discussing protests on the job, given a disciplinary warning to another employee for their union sympathies, and illegally enforced a "no soliciting" rule to prevent workers from discussing unionizing. Let's all join in a nice round of "Union Maid" ("You can't scare me, I'm stickin' with the union") shall we?
And talk about some petty bullshit union-bustin' horsecrap idiot tactics! One part-time worker, Romell Frazier, was told by management that "if he was talking about striking again, he'd soon be picking up his paycheck." The company insisted to the judge that it was "plainly entitled" to tell workers that they cannot talk about unions or strikes at work, but Amchan wrote, "This assertion is simply incorrect" -- the National Labor Relations Act actually forbids employers from punishing workers for discussing work conditions, unionization, and wages at work.
Another employee, Claudette Wilson, was punished for stopping by the restaurant on her day off to ask workers who were on a break to fill out a questionnaire about wages. The manager wrote Wilson up for violating the chain's policy banning "loitering and solicitation"; in the hearing, EYM King tried to argue that the policy was necessary because the restaurant was in a "high crime area."
Amchan ruled that the enforcement of this policy on employees violated the National Labor Relations Act. The workplace is a "particularly appropriate place" to distribute materials or discuss organizing rights, seeing as it's "the one place where employees clearly share common interests," he wrote. He added, "This is particularly true in the instant case where some of the workers are lower paid individuals who commute to work via bus."
And then, to top things off, the store manager reprimanded Wilson and sent her home early the next day, citing her violation of an extremely serious quality-control measure: she failed to place pickles on a hamburger in a perfect square arrangement, as clearly specified in the Great Bible Of Burger Construction. The judge wasn't especially convinced that the punishment was truly about pickles:
Wilson admits that she did not put pickles on her sandwiches in perfect squares as she was supposed to, due to her anger over the written warning she received. However, given Respondent's animus towards her protected activity, as evidence by the illegal warning given to her the same day, I find that the General Counsel has made a prima facie that her discipline (being sent home early) was related to Wilson engaging in protected activity in Respondent's parking lot the day prior. Thus, the burden of proof has shifted to Respondent that it would have sent Wilson home early even if she had not engaged in protected activity. Respondent has made no showing that it would have sent Wilson home in the absence of her protected activity. Therefore, I find that it violated the Act in so doing.
Mmm, tangy, vinegary justice for the working woman!
Amchan ordered EYM King to cease and desist with the illegal infringements on workers' rights to organize, to change its solicitation policy to allow legal activities, and to pay Wilson for her missed hours and strike the written warning from her Permanent Record.
HuffPo notes that while national fast-food chains have largely been insulated from labor rulings since most policies are set by individual franchise owners who operate the restaurants, this protection from liability could change since
the NLRB's general counsel recently named McDonald's a "joint employer" alongside one of its franchisees. The fast-food industry is worried that the move could open it up to new liabilities.
Guess that may just send a message to Burger King about where they can put their pickle.
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