The Remaking Of A Coalition
Jay Singh, Chairman
Many franchisees have called the National Coalition office for an update on the independent contractor lawsuit. Here are the details.
On October 12, 2017, a 54-page class-action complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, Western Division, alleging that 7-Eleven, Inc. (SEI) is in violation of the Federal Labor Standards Act and California employment laws in connection with its administration of our convenience store system. The docket number is 2:17-CV-7454. The designated and proposed class representatives were four courageous California franchisees: Serge Haitayan, Jaspreet Dhillon, Robert Elkins, and Maninder “Paul” Lobana. The complaint sought money damages, restitution and other relief.
The central basis of the complaint is that while SEI promises to franchisees and represents to them that they are and will be independent contractors, they are in fact treated as employees. Over time, SEI has been gradually chipping away at the profits of franchisees, increasing their costs, exercising more and more control over what is supposed to be an independently operated convenience store, where franchisees control the manner and the means of the operation of the location.
On March 20, 2018, the court dismissed the case, finding in part that the control exercised by SEI was no more than was necessary to protect the goodwill behind its brand. Shortly thereafter, SEI requested that the court issue an order requiring the plaintiffs to reimburse SEI for out-of-pocket costs associated with the lawsuit to that date, principally the cost of deposition transcripts. As of the date of this writing, the court had not decided whether to assess those costs and if so, in what amounts. SEI filed no request for reimbursement of its legal fees.
Because counsels of record in the case believe that the dismissal of the case was wrong on the facts and wrong on the law, the judgment dismissing the case was appealed to the United States Circuit Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit on April 9, 2018. The appeal has been docketed and the brief of the plaintiff franchisees must be filed by July 18, 2018, with SEI’s brief due 30 days later. On the appeal, the plaintiff franchisees are represented by Shannon Liss-Riordan, of Boston, Massachusetts. These are the facts behind the lawsuit. There is much, much more to the case, and to the sacrifice these franchisees and the Coalition made to try and improve the lot of all franchisees who are losing ground contractually to our franchisor with each consecutive contract, and each hike in minimum wage. The entire National Coalition Board of Directors voted unanimously, more than once, to move forward with this lawsuit, and these votes reflect the status of franchisees and franchisee morale during this period prior to the distribution of the new 2019 Agreement.
Now we must regroup and move forward with the business of running our stores and running the National Coalition. So here we go.
The National Coalition is throwing a great franchisee convention July 23-26 at the famed Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, just minutes from Universal Studios and Walt Disney World. Our website, www.NCASEF.com is open and ready NOW for franchisee and exhibitor/vendor registration.
To give our hardworking franchisees a break on the money, we’re working extra-hard on fundraising to subsidize a $49 franchisee registration fee, and a $99 hotel rate for franchisees at this usually $300 per night hotel. This is the first time in history the NCASEF has lowered the price of registration, and it is the lowest convention registration rate the National Coalition has offered in recent memory, down from $149 in the past.
For our trade show we’re expecting at least 300 booths and great show deals from our valued vendors who provide the great products for us to sell in our stores. Where else can you find so many recommended and non-recommended vendors together who are all pitching products to their favorite customers, 7-Eleven franchisees?
We’ve put together three informational seminars—“State of the National Coalition,” “I-9 Forms And Hiring Procedures With The Department Of Homeland Security,” and “The Legal Forum” with NCASEF’s General Counsel Eric Karp—to keep everyone informed, legal, and knowledgeable about the Coalition. We’ve also added a new feature, a vendor panel featuring our major sponsoring vendors.
For the fun stuff we’re got a 2018 BMW 320i to give away as the grand prize at the Grand Banquet, a day at Universal Studios (included with registration), and our annual Charity Night Gala International Buffet with profits going to Swim Across America and a local yet-to-be picked charity. It’s going to be a great event, one where you can celebrate and party with friends, family and colleagues, as well as our vendor partners and all of their wonderful products. Join us as we move into the next phase of franchisee development, and please come to let us know what more the National Coalition can do to serve the best interests of franchisees on the eve of the impending 2019 Agreement.
So visit the website, www.NCASEF.com, for all the details, and tell your friends. This is the time for franchisee unity, and we need every voice.