The NLRB just acted to give some of the most disadvantaged workers in America more bargaining power.

August 27th, 2015 at 4:38 pm

This new National Labor Relations Board decision looks important and potentially very positive for low-wage workers facing a huge bargaining-power deficit with their employers.

The Board’s decision held that workers hired by a contractor–Leadpoint in this case–were jointly employed by both the contractor and the contracting company, Browning-Ferris Industries (BFI). From the NLRB:

…the Board found that BFI was a joint employer with Leadpoint, the company that supplied employees to BFI to perform various work functions for BFI, including cleaning and sorting of recycled products. In finding that BFI was a joint employer with Leadpoint, the Board relied on indirect and direct control that BFI possessed over essential terms and conditions of employment of the employees supplied by Leadpoint as well as BFI’s reserved authority to control such terms and conditions.

The reason this is such a big deal is that, as the NYT recognizes, “…the ruling could apply well beyond companies that rely on contractors and staffing agencies, extending to companies with large numbers of franchisees.” Like Mickey D’s, e.g.

Now, there are a lot of potential slips between the cup and the lips on this one. First, the board’s ruling has to survive legal challenges. If it does, then there’s got to be a union to organize these workers. Given the fact that by definition, they’re scattered around among franchise shops and subcontractors’ payrolls, that will be a challenge.

But in the name of fighting economic inequality and rebalancing bargaining power, it is one well worth undertaking.

There’s another point here, one which I fear is underappreciated: the members of the NLRB are appointed by the president. And so it really matters who the president is, in ways we don’t always think about.

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