02.05.15

Murray on Joint-Employer Standard: GOP Defending Policies That Put Corporations Over Working Families

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered remarks at a HELP Committee hearing: Who’s the Boss? The “Joint Employer” Standard and Business Ownership. In her opening statement, Murray criticized Republicans for once again putting big corporations and their profits ahead of working families, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet on low wages and under poor labor conditions. She noted that while the labor market has changed over the past 30 years, it should not be the end of basic worker protections or the ability to earn a living wage. Murray also called on Democrats and Republicans to work together on policies that create jobs, generate broad-based economic growth, and expand economic security for all workers and families. 

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

“We’re a few weeks into the new Congress, and I truly hope this Committee can find ways to work together on policies that create jobs, expand economic security, and generate broad-based economic growth for workers and families – not just the wealthiest few. So, I find it troubling that once again, my Republican colleagues are putting big corporations and their profits ahead of working families.”

“The parent company of a franchise can dictate pricing and store hours. It can prohibit collective bargaining and it can monitor, in real time, worker hours and staffing levels. And yet, the parent company can put all the liability for poor working conditions and low wages squarely on the shoulders of its franchise owners. And without collective bargaining rights, workers have no recourse for improving these workplace conditions. This arrangement can also hurt franchise owners. These small business owners face pressure in bidding for franchise licenses and they struggle to manage under corporate rules.  That’s not good for workers. It’s not good for franchise owners. And, it lets some major corporations have it both ways. They can squeeze both workers and small business owners, while they make record profits. And they get to escape all liability for low wages and poor working conditions.”

“Too many big corporations are rigging the system and leaving taxpayers holding the bag. These employment arrangements, including temp agencies and franchises, are the new reality of today’s labor market. But they shouldn’t be the end of basic worker protections or earning a living wage.”

“…many of my Republican colleagues are defending a precedent that allows too many major corporations turn a blind eye to poor labor conditions, even as their workers scrape by on stagnant wages and watch as their rights are routinely denied. Instead of allowing some of the biggest corporations to rig the system against small businesses and workers, I hope we can have a discussion about how to best expand economic security for more Americans. That is good for workers, good for businesses, good for the economy—and something we should be striving for in our work here in Congress.”

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks:

“Thank you, Chairman Alexander and all of our colleagues for joining us today. I’d also like to thank our witnesses for taking the time to be here.

“We’re a few weeks into the new Congress, and I truly hope this Committee can find ways to work together on policies that create jobs, expand economic security, and generate broad-based economic growth for workers and families – not just the wealthiest few.

“So, I find it troubling that once again, my Republican colleagues are putting big corporations and their profits ahead of working families. That’s really at the heart of today’s hearing.

“Across our country today, so many workers clock in for 40 hours a week, they work hard, and yet they’re unable to provide for their families.

“Just last fall, NBC News interviewed a woman in Kansas City named Latoya who works at a fast-food restaurant. And she was protesting as part of a fast-food workers strike.  Latoya is raising four children alone on $7.25 an hour.  And it should go without saying, that’s not enough to make ends meet.

“For part of last year, she was living in a homeless shelter.  As she told a reporter last year, ‘Nobody should work 40 hours a week and find themselves homeless. On top of rock-bottom wages, Latoya said she and her colleagues experience unpaid wages, unpredictable scheduling, and have to make do with broken equipment on the job. 

“Today, too many Americans are in the same shoes. They aren’t looking for a hand-out. They just want to be treated fairly and get the basic protections and economic security that previous generations of American workers took for granted at a time when the middle class flourished.

“But the labor market has changed dramatically over the past 30 years. Many businesses have begun relying on sub-contracting labor to temp agencies, franchises, and other third-party sources to lower their labor costs.

“The parent company of a franchise can dictate pricing and store hours. It can prohibit collective bargaining and it can monitor, in real time, worker hours and staffing levels. And yet, the parent company can put all the liability for poor working conditions and low wages squarely on the shoulders of its franchise owners.

“And without collective bargaining rights, workers have no recourse for improving these workplace conditions.

“This arrangement can also hurt franchise owners. These small business owners face pressure in bidding for franchise licenses and they struggle to manage under corporate rules.  That’s not good for workers. It’s not good for franchise owners. And, it lets some major corporations have it both ways.

“They can squeeze both workers and small business owners, while they make record profits. And they get to escape all liability for low wages and poor working conditions. 

“When workers make poverty wages, it’s federal taxpayers who end up paying the price. More than half of fast-food workers in our country are enrolled in at least one public assistance program. Taxpayers pay nearly $7 billion a year for public assistance that help fast-food restaurant workers make ends meet.

“Too many big corporations are rigging the system and leaving taxpayers holding the bag. These employment arrangements, including temp agencies and franchises, are the new reality of today’s labor market. But they shouldn’t be the end of basic worker protections or earning a living wage.

“Last year, the National Labor Review Board decided to re-examine its joint-employer standard to make sure it responds to the realities of today’s workplace. The NLRB is currently deliberating the Browning-Ferris case. And the complaint involving McDonald’s is in the very early stages of the process.

“Our hearing today isn’t the place to debate ongoing litigation. But let’s remember: by law, the NLRB is entrusted to examine and adapt the National Labor Relations Act to changing patterns in the labor market, so workers can collectively bargain.

“So, while my Republican colleagues claim that revisiting the joint-employer standard is somehow an ‘over-reach,’ the NLRB is simply carrying out its duties under the law. And by law, it is supposed to adapt as the labor market changes.

“Still, many of my Republican colleagues are defending a precedent that allows too many major corporations turn a blind eye to poor labor conditions, even as their workers scrape by on stagnant wages and watch as their rights are routinely denied.

“Instead of allowing some of the biggest corporations to rig the system against small businesses and workers, I hope we can have a discussion about how to best expand economic security for more Americans.

“That is good for workers, good for businesses, good for the economy—and something we should be striving for in our work here in Congress.

“So I truly hope in the future, we can work together on policies that create jobs and help more workers and families benefit from broad-based economic growth.

“Again, I thank our witnesses for being here and I look forward to our discussion today.” 

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