Next month, the nation’s biggest minimum wage hike takes effect. But its impact could be dulled if the franchise lobby has its way in court.
Under Seattle’s two-tiered, multi-year wage boost, small businesses will start paying at least $10 an hour by April 1, and $15 by 2021. Companies with more than 500 employees -- a category that includes fast-food franchises like McDonald’s and Burger King -- have a tighter window. They’re supposed to pony up $11 an hour as of next month, reaching $15 by 2018. [...]
Companies like Subway and Taco Bell have traditionally been able to skirt labor demands by arguing, with sufficient legal backing, that individual store operators -- not bigwigs in corporate headquarters -- bear responsibility for setting wages and working conditions on the shop floor. But last December, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) officially ruled that franchisers could be considered “joint employers” with franchisees when it comes to labor violations.
“That decision suggests that companies wield a great degree of control over the workplaces of their franchisees, including the pay practices of the workplace,” says Catherine Ruetschlin, senior policy analyst at Demos, a left-leaning think tank.