Last month, the general counsel for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which settles labor disputes in the U.S., decided for the first time that when considering labor complaints at McDonald’s franchises, it would deem the chain jointly responsible. A variety of observers have noted how this is an important breakthrough for fast food workers — one that prevents the multinational corporation from palming off labor abuses on bad-apple franchisees. But the implications are much wider than that.
A globalized economy has changed the nature of employment in the modern economy, and it has created ambiguity about who is responsible for labor conditions in a given workplace. Today a huge number of people — whether entry-level office temps or more highly paid software developers, real estate managers and accountants — work in jobs that are temporary, freelance or outsourced.