Like any true American millennial, I am a fan of McDonald’s. I will admit that from time to time, my mother and I indulged in fast-food breakfasts rather than a home-cooked meal on the way to school in the morning. As a consumer, I had always understood that McDonald’s was bad for my health, but I brushed these thoughts aside because I usually opted for the so-called “healthy” Egg McMuffin. But a motto I’ve learned to appreciate over the years is this: your dollar is your vote. For me, it was easier to stop eating McDonald’s and fast food in general if other peoples’ well-being was at stake. Obviously I’m not rolling in the dough as a freshman college student, but I could never bring myself to support a business model that treats its workers unfairly, even if the franchise produces insanely cheap and delicious hash browns on the regular. Hopefully this will all change with a legal case that challenges the McDonald’s business model.
The question it suggests is simple: Is the McDonald’s corporation responsible for the working conditions at its restaurants? The number of union members protesting McDonald’s since 2012 has skyrocketed, according to a Wednesday BuzzFeed article. The protestors’ main demands are better pay and working environments, but they also highlight the corruption within the institution. Some workers suggest that racism exists within management, as many worker complaints demand explanations of sudden firings and discriminatory treatment, the BuzzFeed article stated. From a corporate standpoint, the company refutes liability, arguing that the franchise does not and cannot control day-to-day operations or how the workers conduct themselves. If won by the Service Employees International Union, the case could set a precedent that would allow union members to appeal directly to corporations themselves instead of individual franchise owners and branch managers.
When he took the stand Wednesday, McDonald’s Vice President of U.S. Franchising Troy Brethauer denied knowing of in-store operations, saying he had never had the privilege of seeing the floor plans of restaurants or the decisions regarding the firing, hiring or decision-making of in-store employees, BuzzFeed reported. Seeing as how the case will take months to be fully fleshed out, workers and other supporters continue to march and rally on the streets and in front of both Republican and Democratic debates. This, of course, has prompted many candidates to answer questions regarding the minimum wage, cost of living and quality of life of many of these fast food workers.
Remember, your dollar is your vote. I myself could never support the degradation and discrimination of some of America’s most hardworking individuals. I understand that fast food, much like gun culture, baseball and apple pie, is engrained in our culture. It’s hard to let go of something that was probably an integral part of childhood. But this issue is bigger than just chicken nuggets and cheeseburgers. The case could change how fast-food workers are treated and what hand is dealt to those on food stamps. It could change the culture of the workplace and communication with corporate figures. This potential precedent could be the first step to major change within the fast-food market.