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AFL-CIO Now: The Browning-Ferris NLRB Decision Explained

Jeremy Sprinkle
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Corporations that use franchises and subcontractors to avoid responsibility for workplace conditions now considered "joint employers"

To paraphrase Vice President Joe Biden, the decision the National Labor Relations Board handed down last week in a dispute between a California company and its workers is a big deal for working people in North Carolina.

Writing for the AFL-CIO Now, Kenneth Quinnell explains what the ruling means for workers wanting to negotiate collective bargaining agreements where they work:

Last week, working people won a significant victory when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued the Browning-Ferris decision and increased employer accountability for wages and work conditions. As with most rulings issued by government bodies, it's a little complicated and a lot of questions are being asked about what exactly the ruling means. We're here to tell you.

Q: What is the Browning-Ferris decision about?

A: The decision is about whether or not working people have the right to bargain with an employer that has authority to control employees’ pay, benefits and working conditions.

Read more: The Browning-Ferris NLRB Decision Explained

Big changes ahead

NLRB decision on 'joint employers' likely to mean big changes for North Carolina businesses, says Jeff Jeffrey, staff writer for the Triangle Business Journal:

The NLRB determined that Browning-Ferris Industries, a California waste management company, exercised enough control over workers provided by a staffing firm to qualify it as a “joint employer.” By meeting that definition, the NLRB determined that both the staffing firm’s owners and BFI’s management were obligated to negotiate with a union seeking to represent the staffing firm’s employees.

The NLRB’s decision effectively expands the test for who counts as a joint employer for a group of workers. Previously, to be considered a joint employer, a company’s control over workers had to be “direct and immediate.” Under the NLRB’s ruling, the test now focuses on whether a company has the potential to directly or indirectly control another entity’s workers.

The ruling may also affect the relationship between franchise operators and their franchisees. A separate case before the NLRB questions whether McDonald’s should be held liable for the actions of its franchisees.

Read more: NLRB decision on 'joint employers' likely to mean big changes for North Carolina businesses