As a political junkie (and a professional lobbyist for over 30 years), I was listening intently last summer when the major party candidates for president gave their nomination acceptance speeches. Now, as we look ahead to the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as our nation’s 45th President, it’s worth pausing to reflect on something his vanquished opponent said at the time she was in the spotlight. There was an important phrase in Hillary Clinton’s speech that continues to resonate with me because its meaning is directly applicable to the Dunkin’ Donuts franchise system.

Take a moment to absorb these words from the former First Lady, U.S. Senator and U.S. Secretary of State: “[T]onight, we’ve reached a milestone in our nation’s march toward a more perfect union: the first time that a major party has nominated a woman for president.”

Beyond the claim of historical importance because the Democratic Party was nominating a woman as its standard bearer, Mrs. Clinton’s reference to “a more perfect union” struck me as relevant to the relationship Dunkin’ Donuts has with its franchisees. The phrase, “a more perfect union,” comes directly from the Preamble to the United States Constitution:

We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to Ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Those familiar with the interlocking history of Dunkin’ and the early days of DDIFO can immediately see the parallels. DDIFO was created – with the guidance from Dunkin’ founder Bill Rosenberg – specifically to represent the interests of franchise owners and, in so doing, ensure balance and tranquility in the relationship; provide for the defense of their common interests; and promote the general welfare of the franchise owner community. In other words, to form a more perfect union, if you will.

Through the decades, and the many changes in Dunkin’s corporate ownership, that perfect union has been elusive more often than not. Most recently, we can point to the unilateral changes Dunkin’ Brands wrote into its 2016 franchise agreement, ostensibly to shield itself from the potential impact of the NLRB joint employer ruling. As we discovered however, through critical analysis undertaken by DDIFO, the actual changes went far beyond simply skirting the joint employer ruling.

Embedded in the agreement was language that threatened, among other things, to harm the franchise owner’s ability to create and share wealth with his/her family – to grant the blessings of success to their posterity. The memo from DDIFO General Counsel Carl Lisa highlighting the brand’s changes exposed the injustice the brand attempted to perpetuate, and left the Dunkin’ franchisee community wondering if this latest move by the brand represented a definitive step to prevent a more perfect union between the franchisor and its franchisees. The steps DDIFO took to identify and publicize those egregious new provisions prompted Dunkin’ to rescind the changes and revert to the former franchise agreement. Subsequent conversations among franchisees demonstrated their appreciation that that this organization provided yet again for their common defense; it is a challenge and a responsibility which we will never shirk.

After the convulsive presidential campaign, Americans are still hopeful this nation – and its leaders – can achieve a more perfect union. At DDIFO, we too are optimistic that we can continue to establish a balance (justice) for franchisees, provide for their common defense and promote the general welfare of the Dunkin’ franchise owner community.

We wish President-elect Trump success as he assumes office. We know that if his commitment to success is as unwavering as is the commitment of this organization, then a more perfect union cannot be far off.

Ed Shanahan
DDIFO Executive Director