McDonald's was in Olympia on Monday for a restaurant day sponsored by the Washington Restaurant Association (WRA), handing out apples and literature about the economic and agricultural impact they make in the state. That isn't abnormal—lots of restaurants were there, and when I spoke to WRA President Anthony Anton he said that restaurants are encouraged to bring in literature reflecting their numbers and margins. But in light of the recent fast food walkouts, the fight to raise the minimum wage, and training wage bills being passed around Olympia, the timing is a little odd. McDonald's didn't mention any of those issues in the literature they were handing out.
I reached out to McDonald's representatives who signed a letter on behalf of the 43 franchise owners in Washington state; I spoke to their PR manager, and they have no comment (no comment on whether they were there lobbying, no comment on minimum wage laws, no comment on how raising the minimum wage would affect their bottom line). The letter outlines the great work they do to provide job opportunities and "lifelong skills to local residents" as a way to reinforce their investment in our communities (as well as how many thousands of pounds of foodstuffs they buy from Washington state suppliers), and reinforce that their presence in the state creates over 30,000 jobs, $142 million in wages. Here's what they fail to mention:
- Fast food workers across the country have staged strikes and walkouts to protest their low wages. This not only raised our social consciousness a few clicks, but was the spark for the 15Now campaign.
- More than half of fast-food workers rely on at least one public assistance program to support their families, and the "low wage, non-existent benefits business model" of fast food costs taxpayers almost $7 billion a year. With the largest U.S. fast-food workforce at 707,850, McDonald's contributes to $1.2 billion of that annual cost, almost twice as much as their next largest competitor. Keep in mind that McDonald's CEO Donald Thompson earns $13.7 million a year, and surely has no problem feeding his family, or, like, the entire nation of Angola.
- What a coincidence that McDonald's was in Olympia the same week the training wage bill was discussed. Most fast food jobs are minimum wage, and you'd better believe corporations like McDonald's would greatly benefit from paying their employees even less than they do now.
- They passed out apples on Monday, even though studies show fast food is a contributing factor to obesity and diabetes.
McDonald's has no comment about whether or not they were there to lobby wage issues, but something about their silence stinks.