For the fourth time in five months, McDonald’s has drawn unwelcome attention for what critics call tone-deaf guidance to its impoverished workforce. A section of the corporation’s worker advice website, reported by CNBC Thursday and then quickly removed – offers McDonalds workers advice on how to tip their au pair, pool cleaner, and masseuse.
CNBC’s story landed hours into the biggest fast food strike in U.S. history, in which organizers say thousands of workers in over a hundred cities – from Atlanta, Georgia to Warwick, Rhode Island – walked off the job demanding raises to $15 an hour and the freedom to form a union without intimidation. “I feel like, if I don’t do nothing, how are things ever going to get better?” Richmond Burger King employee Crystal Travis told me before going on strike.
As I’ve reported, the fast food campaign, whose key national backer is the Service Employee International Union, has wed a wave of one-day strikes with a comprehensive campaign effort to shame and squeeze corporations with media, political, consumer, and legal pressure. While the effort targets all of the industry’s top chains, McDonald’s has drawn a disproportionate share of headlines – both for its size, and because it keeps handing its critics additional ammunition.
In July, the campaign highlighted a sample budget McDonalds offered for workers, which imagined an employee working two jobs and still devoting zero dollars to heat. In October, an activist worker recorded and shared her call to the company’s McResources hotline in which a counselor suggested she “would most likely be eligible” for food stamps, which “takes a lot of pressure off how much money yu spend on groceries.” And last month, the SEIU-backed effort seized on a McResources website offering advice on budgeting, stress, and diet which included cutting food into smaller pieces and spending more time at church.
The “To Tip of Not to Tip” guide highlighted by CNBC appeared on that same McResources website. It offered “tips for the holidays” from “etiquette guru Emily Post” on how much to tip the “serviceperson”s in your life, including “Au Pair,” “Beauty Salon Staff”, “Dog Walker,” “Fitness Trainer, personal,” “Garage Attendants,” “Massage Therapist,” “Pool Cleaner,” and “Yard/ Garden Worker.” CNBC’s Katie Little noted that, “In total, the tips add up to hundreds, if not more than a thousand dollars of gift suggestions for McDonald’s workers, many of whom earn just above minimum wage.”
McDonalds did not immediately respond to a Monday inquiry. Spokesperson Lisa McComb told CNBC, “This is content provided by a third-party partner and quotes from our of the best-known etiquette gurus, Emily Post. We continue to review the resource and will ask the vendor to make changes as needed.” In a separate statement, the corporation dismissed the hundred-city walkout, saying McDonald’s and its franchisees offer “advancement opportunities, competitive pay and benefits,” and that “the events taking place are not strikes.”