January 19, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
Los Angeles, CA– The latest McDonald’s commercial recently rolled out during the NFL playoffs and Golden Globes Awards has already been lambasted for what many see as a particularly cynical effort to exploit American tragedies like September 11th and the Boston bombing. However, according to many low-paid McDonald’s workers, the “Signs” spot also showcases the multinational fast food chain’s obvious hypocrisy regarding livable wages and workers’ rights.
“It's ridiculous,” McDonald’s employee Edgar Gonzalez recently told LaborPress. “It's not going to change anything. They're taking about coal miners and firefighters, and all those people that have unions. But they don't support unions, and that makes them hypocrites.”
Gonzalez, 22, has worked for McDonald’s for past two years, and is part of the drive to win employees a $15 an hour minimum wage and the right to join a union.
But working full-time at McDonald’s while also raising an 8-month-old daughter and studying Political Science at Santa Monica College, is sorely testing Gonzalez’ ability to make ends meet. He spends most of his time worrying about the rent and whether or not his child has all the essentials a new baby demands.
“It’s a constant worry,” Gonzalez said. “I also worry that when my daughter grows up, she’s going to end up in one of these jobs, too, because that’s all there is. We should be paid $15 an hour so we can work one job, and spend more time with our families.”
McDonald’s, along with other giants in the multi-billion dollar fast food industry including Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken, have been under increasing pressure from fed up workers to finally address the issue of poverty wages and workers’ rights.
Thus far, Gonzalez has participated in three strikes, and he continues to be actively engaged in efforts to organize other low-wage fast food workers like himself.
According to published reports, McDonald’s U.S. sales fell by almost 5 percent in November – the worst they’ve been in over decade. The numbers were also down some 2.2 percent outside the country.
“They're really desperate to change their image because their sales have been dropping a lot, and that's because we've been coming out and striking,” Gonzalez said. “I think it would be better for them to pay us fairly. That will be a much better way to show that they really care about people and not just about money.”
Although McDonald’s concedes that its latest ad campaign has “sparked commentary from customers” regarding the use of September 11th and Boston bombing references, it denies that it has upset workers as well.
“We are not aware of such feedback from employees,” Terry Hickey, McDonald’s U.S. Media Relations manager told LaborPress in an e-mail.
The controversial McDonald’s “Signs” commercial depicts a series of McDonald’s restaurant marquees from around the country expressing solidarity with everything from local birthdays to imperilled coal miners. One sign implores, “Keep Jobs In Toledo.”
In contrast, Gonzalez says that in addition to personally targeting him in retaliation for his organizing activities and participation in prior walkouts, McDonald’s managers also actively attempt to intimate other employees willing to speak out for livable wages and workers’ rights.
“They try to scare the workers by telling them that the [Fight For $15] campaign is trying to take their money,” Gonzalez said. “They try to intimidate them, and many are scared of losing their jobs. But I think that people are realizing that we don't get what we deserve, and are tired of being mistreated.”
McDonald’s is expected to unveil a new commercial during this year’s Super Bowl game.