News Flash: McDonald’s is not a small business.

The National Labor Relations Board has issued a ruling that the McDonald’s Corporation can be listed as a “joint employer” for workers in franchise-owned stores. It’s a ruling that could have a major impact in the growing movement to raise wages and working conditions in the fast-food industry.

Whether franchise locations like McDonald’s should be treated as part of an intertwined corporate structure, or as separate locally-owned small business, has been a hot topic in recent minimum wage debates prompted by fast-food worker strikes. The city of Seattle passed a $15 minimum wage law this year, under which corporate franchises and other large businesses have a shorter implementation schedule to raise wages than smaller locally-owned businesses; this has prompted the International Franchise Association to file a lawsuit claiming discrimination.

On MSNBC's Your Business, Main Street Alliance leader Makini Howell, owner of Plum Restaurants in Seattle, debated the CEO of the Washington DC-based International Franchise Association on Seattle's $15/hour minimum wage law, and on whether corporate franchises are really small businesses.


Howell called the $15 minimum wage an "economy-boosting policy," noting that low-wage consumers will have nearly $3 billion more to spend in the local economy in the law's first decade.

Responding to IFA's claims of 'discrimination,' Howell had the last word.

"A lot of the money that the franchisees could use to pay their workers increased wages is being sucked away to the larger corporations. And it's not fair for McDonald's to hide behind them in order to pay poverty wages."