Conflict Management between McDonalds and its Employees
McDonalds is one of the largest employers by volume, not only in the United States but as well as globally. The ongoing conflict between the franchise, its employees, and the unions representing the employees promises not only to impact on McDonald’s employees but also on many franchises offering the current entry-level compensation.
The phenomena that are currently known as fast food is an American concept, with the industry developing alongside America along freeways, suburbs, television, and virtually, shaped and was shaped by the American culture. The need by American’s for efficiency and instantaneity of gratification was catered for through service, efficient advertising. The growth of the fast food franchises, however, depends chiefly on one factor for their survival, economies of large scale service provision, which makes their offerings to be of considerable quality, while at the same time maintaining low, affordable costs inclusive for the majority of the consumers. Concerns have been raised about the quality, or value that the fast food franchises bring to the American society, with some decrying their unhealthy food offerings, and the contribution they have on the national medical bill. Forman, (2013) discusses the fast food industry’s supernormal profits, and speaking from experience as a former trade unionist, the author pinpoints the industry’s supernormal profits to factors such as sexism, racism, and worker exploitation. To this end, the author holds that the fast food industry allocates an inconsistent number of racial minorities and women dead-end positions while at the same time keeping the wages barely above minimum.
The current approach to Unionism is aligned to the employer, with the unions having to solicit for the employer’s neutrality, often to the disadvantage of the worker. In a typical exchange, notes that the union leadership may extend political backing to the company’s agenda, where they promise against organizing their worker units, or even refrain from agitating, and accept sub-standard terms on behalf of the represented workers. Rather than the current system of representation working to the worker’s benefit, it instead works to defraud the existing system of representation. While it is the associational power of the workers that should guide negotiation between the unions and the employer, the union and the employer partner to involve in media stunts, creative lawyering, eventually depriving the worker of their fair representation. The current conflict between the fast food franchise and its employees is representative of a general trend of agitation towards raising of the minimum wage to meet escalating costs of living.
The government is a most influential organization in determining the quality of life enjoyed by its citizens. Examines the role that the government plays in the subsidization of substandard wages, and the legal clout supporting this intervention. The fast food industry is among one of the few industries that offer employment opportunities to a sizeable portion of the American citizens. In this case, the author uses the hypothetical case of Liam to illustrate the conflict facing the government, the employer, as well as the individual worker in ensuring that the employees are adequately compensated for their work, while at the same time, retaining the profit making a model of the franchise. Liam earns the minimum wage at McDonald’s, under the standard forty hour week. The cumulated annual pay for Liam is $15080, representing a 26% markup from the defined federal poverty line. A citizen like Liam therefore, is highly dependent upon government welfare on matters such as food stamps and Medicaid. The truth is that the minimum wage offered by franchises such as McDonalds is never meant to be the living wage, however, since it is a wage earned by a majority of low-income earners, is often assumed as the living wage .
In ‘The virtue and vice of workplace conflict: food for (pessimistic) thought’, the author evaluates the positive and the negative eventualities of conflict. The conclusions made arise from the literature review, which shows that positive effects of conflict are only realizable under a restricted set of circumstances. Further, the author notes of the negative effect of conflict in general, noting that even under conducive environments, conflict still was a major cause of negative functions within the group’s dynamics. Dreu, (2008) Proposes the adoption of cooperative conflict management not as a way of inducing positive conflict, but rather as a means of avoiding too much hurt from the conflict. It is prudent that a conflict is resolved as soon as possible to avoid drawn out losses for both parties to the conflict.
The Dempster-Shafer theory uses a degree of falsity in proposing a method for conflict resolution. In this theory, each piece of evidence to a conflict is ranked by the extent to which it contributes to present conflict. In the case of McDonalds and the labor unions, each of the issues raised by each is assessed individually about the perceived problem they cause. Conflict management is complicated by the amalgamation of issues by the parties to the conflict, leading to a compound problem for otherwise independent issues. In a case where the evidence to a conflict is jumbled up, the conflict resolution theory holds that at least a piece of the evidence presented is not representative to the conflict. Through this process, the method can reassess the conflict and to grade all levels of falsities .
Rooney, (2015) introduces us to the conflict currently facing McDonalds, where the company faced worker’s protests during its annual general meeting. Fast food workers, being among the lowest earners of the population, have over the past two years been agitating for an increase in the minimum wage to at least $15 per hour. The workers reported in this article present personal petitions in box loads to the shareholders during the company’s annual general meeting. McDonalds, however, has not taken this assault lightly, with the company terming the conflict between them and the worker’s union as ‘union attack’, where the union is accused of selectively targeting the McDonald’s brand using its member’s resources. Further, given the company’s policy of buying back stock from its shareholder, the workers demand that their interests be considered too, given the handsome reward shareholders continue to earn. Nonetheless, McDonalds has made it clear that the franchise, along with its independent franchise owners will remain united in the face of what its terms as union attack .
The history of the fast food industry
The fast food industry, like many other American grown innovations, started small, often as a single eatery, slowly but eventually growing into franchises. Among the companies that have franchised fast foods include McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC. The franchises operate an aggressive cost reduction model of business, with the payment of low wages being a part of the cost reduction efforts. The fast food industry is an ingrained component of the American culture. Nonetheless, the phenomena developed a little over fifty years ago, when businessmen saw an opportunity in reducing production costs in restaurants through the use of mechanization, as well as use of cheap labor, formerly high school students, but later encompassing all people desperate for working opportunities. Further, the industry continually finds new ways of cutting costs, such as the self-service model, where the customers contribute to low service through taking up some of the roles that would be traditionally filled by a paid employee. Eric Schlosser discusses the evolution of the fast food industry standards through the McDonald model, where principles guiding values in a factory assembly line were adopted to suit the franchise’s commercial kitchen. In the new model, each worker was required to master an individual skill, through performing it over and over. The effect of this transformation was the elimination of skilled and short order chefs, demanding high pay. In effect, the model pioneered by McDonalds eliminates the need for a stable and well-trained workforce, instead utilizing a system of high turnover, and low skilled labor force willing to work for lower wages . It is through this model that the company was able to grow into a nationwide phenomenon, boasting an increase to approximately 3000 restaurants by 1973 . Ray Kroc, who took over the leadership of McDonald’s during the 50’s, is considered a pioneer in the fast food industry. Referring to his competitors, Ray was once famously quoted as saying, “If they were drowning to death, I would put a hose in their mouth .” The impact of McDonalds on the American economic and social realities has seen the franchise exert multiple trends upon the American society, most markedly being their remuneration of their workers on the minimum wage cutline. This precedent has led to the widely held misconception that McDonald, and in extension the fast food industry is the marker on the acceptable minimum wage acceptable in America. In the illustration, Ray Kroc lobbied both the Congress as well as the white house to accent to a bill that allowed the franchise to pay 16 and 17-year-old high school kids a wage 20% lower than the accepted minimum federal wage. While the bill ultimately failed, there has been no letting up from the franchises in lowering the legally accepted minimum wage. Countrywide, franchises are always lobbying state administrations towards legalizing a sub-minimum state wage, where they are allowed to pay some of their workers lower than the legally recommended wages .
Unlike any other industry, the fast foods industry in the United States has remained to a large part un-unionized. It is this reality that may trade organizations are in the effort to reverse, with the fight towards raising the minimum wages to $15 an hour being synonymous to the cry for raises within the fast foods industry. The relation between the two connected, yet distinctively separate movements is evidenced by the protesters bearing placards simultaneously calling for the implementation of the 15$ minimum wage, in addition to the implementation of union rights for the fast food industry workers . The relationship between the fast food franchises and their workers emerges, therefore, as one dependent on ensuring that the workers do not achieve union rights, thus preventing them from demanding for improved working terms from a unified platform.
Political ramifications of the conflict
The situation between McDonalds and its employees becomes politically significant given the relationship between the government, legislation, and the effect that legislation has on the populace. To this effect, the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 comes into perspective. The act provided for employee’s right to organize, participate or even assist in the trade movements. Before the implementation of the NLRA Act, employers were free to fire employees for participation in trade union activity. With the enactment of the NLRA, however, workers were granted the right to form unions through restricting employers from employing discriminating labor practices such as the retaliatory sacking of the striking employees.
The fast food industry has always been mired by a lack of worker representation in the decision-making process. The NLRA, on the other hand, provides employees a chance to present their issues with increased leverage, by presenting a credible threat of paralyzing business through strikes. In the past, when restaurant employees had the chance to form a union, they have successfully engaged in union activity. In March 2014, the Culinary and Bartenders Union in the city of Las Vegas enforced a strike upon approximately ten establishments in the city . Within three months, the striking union had successfully secured improved terms for all it workers . There exist a cache, though, where workers demanding unionization are required to make the decision through majority voting, a challenge that is especially significant for fast food franchise workers. The right to work laws, which came after the monumental gains made by the NLRA are one of the major reason the fast foods franchise workers have been unable to unionize. The right to work laws effectively compromise the formation of strong unions, especially in the minimum wage, high volume positions such as the ones provided by the NLRA.
In an economy where the number of people requiring an income is high, any income at that is, the workers are unable to maintain satisfactorily a job long enough for them to form a union. The gains made through the enactment of the NLRA laws have been countered through legislation that requires workers to choose on whether to contribute to trade union contributions. Elective participation in trade union affairs weakens trade unions in the fast food industry, also factoring in the high employee turnover witnessed in the fast foods industry. While many workers in the fast foods industry view their jobs as temporary, a sizeable number end up keeping their jobs late into their adulthood. The political class has always been in a hard place trying to implement minimum wage to a sizeable chunk of the workforce that is hard to organize into unions.
Cognitive analysis of the conflict situation
The stance employed by both the administration and the labor unions is that through the raising of the minimum wages, the entry level of unemployment would go up. Further, the fast food industry is built on a model of cost minimization, including minimizing cost incurred as a result of wages paid to employees. The conflict, in this case, is exacerbated by the fast food’s industry’s unwillingness to ease their remuneration policies, including adopting sustainable business models allowing them to reward their employees with improved terms. Further, the inability of the fast foods industry workers to organize into a unified body fighting for their collective rights reduces the current activism efforts into mere isolated factions of disgruntled workers, rather than a group presenting what should be every workers interest.
The situation demands that both parties embrace conflict management techniques to avoid disadvantaging both parties to the conflict. While McDonalds, and in extension the fast foods industry, has circumvented conventions on minimum wages, it risks damaging its brand image through association to the exploitation of its labor force. It is, therefore, prudent for the franchise to allow a neutral mediator between the franchise and the worker’s representative . By improving the wages of its employees, the franchise risks losing a part of its profits, but in this relation, the cost is minimal in comparison to the business they risk losing due to negative publicity. Psychologically implied contracts are also a major contributing factor to the conflict, where the employee has preconceived expectations of their position. Elimination of this psychological barrier should be administrative responsibility, where the government embraces the value of educating its citizens on means to derive maximum value for services rendered.
The conflict between McDonald’s and its employees is a culmination of an economy and a country’s development, where economic values crash with humanitarian values of the people. The conflict resolution strategies applied in this case are peculiar, in consideration of the distinctiveness of the fast foods industry, of which McDonald’s is the pioneer. Avoidance of the conflict as has been McDonald’s approach will only lead to increased antagonism from the employees towards the franchise.
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