The "sole reason" that the National Labor Relations Board, the federal government's main labor law enforcement agency, is pursuing a major case against McDonald's Corp. is the efforts of a union-funded activist group, according to the board's general counsel, Richard Griffin.

The general counsel made the comment during an American Bar Association forum Friday in response to a question regarding the NLRB's complaint saying that the corporation is a "joint employer" with its privately owned franchise restaurants and therefore legally responsible for labor violations that occur at them. The case has drawn intense attention from business groups, which argue that if McDonald's is found responsible, it would have major repercussions for all businesses that franchise.

"The sole reason why our agency is involved in the McDonald's situation is because there is a national campaign that's called the 'Fight for $15' that is being run by a fast-food workers alliance that is seeking to raise wages in the fast food industry to $15 a hour," Griffin told the audience. He noted that the case began after about 300 complaints of unfair labor practices at different restaurants were filed with the board.

Fight for $15 is a nonprofit activist group founded and run by the Service Employees International Union, which has long sought to organize workers at fast-food chains. A finding that McDonald's Corp. is a joint employer with its franchisees would make the SEIU's campaign much easier by allowing it to focus its efforts on the corporate parent rather than organizing the workers restaurant-by-restaurant. The union spent $23 million in 2014 on the Fight for $15 campaign, Labor Department filings show. The organizing director of Fight for $15, Kendall Fells, is an SEIU employee.

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