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McDonald’s abusive marketing, labor practices take center stage at annual meeting

McDonald’s executives face a supersized number of shareholder resolutions, forced to answer to labor advocates and investors

OAK BROOK, IL—Today, at its annual meeting, McDonald’s executives faced challenges on a variety of issues ranging from political giving to shareholder voting methods. And, for the first time in the corporation’s 60-year history, shareholders called on McDonald’s to evaluate its charity in light of its stated values.

The meeting comes as McDonald’s faces growing pressure from a wide range of constituencies nationwide. Weeks before the meeting, the second-largest school district in the country, Los Angeles Unified School District, voted to end McTeacher’s Nights marketing events. Earlier this year, Norton Children’s Hospital (formally Kosair) became the twelfth hospital in the U.S. since 2012 to divest from McDonald’s. The day before the meeting, thousands of workers flooded the streets of Chicago for the “March on McDonald’s.” The march elevated a call for a $15 minimum wage and demanded that McDonald’s stop funding the trade association the National Restaurant Association (the “Other NRA”), which among the largest anti-worker lobbies in Washington. 

“When will McDonald’s finally listen to the calls from millions of people who want to institute change?” questioned Akili, a Los Angeles parent and Project Coordinator with Corporate Accountability International. “Until McDonald’s puts an end to its greasy so-called charity programs and listens to its own workers, people will continue to leave McDonald’s behind.” 

This year, John Harrington of Harrington Investments, Inc., filed a resolution that calls on McDonald’s to evaluate the ways its charitable programs, including McTeacher’s Nights, diverge from its stated values. At McTeacher’s Nights, McDonald’s has teachers to “work” behind store counters and sell burgers, fries and soda to their students and students’ families. The events are poor fundraisers at best: Schools often receive only $1-2 per student. To date, the National Education Association and over 50 state and local teachers unions nationwide, representing more than three million educators, have denounced the practice.  

“As millions of educators have made clear, events like McTeacher’s Nights have only one goal for McDonald’s: to hook kids on burgers, fries, and soda,” said Sriram Madhusoodanan, director of Value [the] Meal campaign at Corporate Accountability International, who defended a resolution in the meeting. “Shareholders are increasingly following in educators’ footsteps and demanding the corporation stop talking out of both sides of its mouth when it comes to its so-called charity.”  

Inside the meeting, there was a call for McDonald’s to address growing liability around its political giving to trade associations like the “Other NRA.” The “Other NRA” claims to represent small restaurants, but pursues policies that benefit transnational restaurant corporations. McDonald’s currently discloses that it is a member of the “Other NRA” but fails to share exactly how it contributes annually to the trade association. 

"When trade associations like the NRA walk the corridors of Capitol Hill or City Hall, they are perceived to do so on behalf of their members," said Teó Reyes, National Research Director at ROC United, who spoke inside the meeting. "When they align themselves with anti-worker, anti-health policies, they are a growing source of liability to McDonald’s and its investors."  

On Tuesday, in conjunction with the NRA trade show, ROC United released an updated report detailing the NRA’s immense political influence, lobby agenda, ties to junk food corporations including McDonald’s, and ties to the Trump administration. The report, coupled with an action outside the trade show, builds momentum for McDonald’s to disclose its contributions to the lobby group.  

Statements from today’s shareholders’ meeting are available here

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