- - Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Once again, one man has dictated a major change of federal law that can cost American families dearly.

It may double the price of your Big Mac, Whopper, fried chicken, donuts or other purchases at your local fast-food restaurant.

Where’s the beef coming from? Surprise! This time it’s neither President Obama nor Attorney General Eric Holder who is twisting the law like a pretzel from Auntie Anne’s. It’s Obama appointee Richard Griffin, the president’s hand-picked choice for the all-powerful position as general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Mr. Griffin has declared that millions of Americans who work for franchise restaurants aren’t merely employees of the business owners, regardless of what their paychecks and the tax records say. Reversing decades of clear legal precedents, he declares that from now on they are the “joint” employees of McDonald’s and the other big franchise companies as well as the local store owners.

Now the big labor bosses no longer would face the challenge of trying to organize each separate restaurant into a local bargaining unit. They can go after all staff at all the Pizza Huts, all the KFC’s or all the Starbucks at the same time.

Imagine servers asking customers whether they want original, crispy or super-priced chicken. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Imagine servers asking customers whether they want original, crispy or super-priced chicken. ... more >

Never mind that local franchisors hire and fire their own people. Mr. Griffin treats the operations as though they are identical photo-copies from a FedEx Kinko’s franchise.

The unions’ top goal is to double starting pay from the minimum wage of $7.25 a hour to $15 an hour. Expect the price of a burger and fries to be super-sized along with the wages. The Service Employees International Union and United Food and Commercial Workers already have extensive multimillion-dollar corporate pressure campaigns up and running, which they call the Fight for 15.

So where did Richard Griffin acquire his wisdom to overturn employment law? He practiced and perfected his impartiality during his decades as general counsel for the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), as a director of the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee and doing other work for the IUOE. He was confirmed by the Senate nine months ago after Mr. Obama appointed him NLRB’s general counsel, a position that carries the power to interpret labor law. Previously, Mr. Obama picked Mr. Griffin for a seat on the NLRB itself but that was one of Mr. Obama’s invalid recess appointments.

The National Right to Work Committee labels Mr. Griffin as a “union hack,” but they were kinder than the FOX News article that questioned whether Mr. Griffin may have ties to organized crime.

Mr. Griffin’s ruling technically only applies to a case involving McDonald’s for now, but the principle (or lack of it) will carry over to other franchises. All 12,700 McDonald’s locations would be declared one huge joint employer, even though the parent company only owns one-fifth of the franchises. Appeals will take years to work through the bureaucracies and the courts. The trade associations for the franchisors warns that millions of jobs are at risk and that many franchise owners will back away from any plans.

Will anyone benefit?

Workers who expect a big raise will find themselves waiting for years of litigation to end. Thanks to Obamacare, business already was booming for makers of order-it-yourself robo-menus already found business was booming to replace workers who take orders. Higher hourly wages will accelerate that trend. And non-franchised mom-and-pop stores may gain a competitive advantage now.

The whole NLRB maneuver demonstrates how the Obama administration continues to bypass Congress and use executive branch edicts to transform society. Every day there’s a new surprise. If you don’t like surprises, better go try a Holiday Inn.

(​Listen to Ernest’s daily radio show, noon to 3 pm Eastern, online at www.kzlsam.com. ​Get Ernest’s free email newsletter. Signup at eepurl.com/JPojD.)