Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Friday, October 28, 2016

McDonald’s is scrambling, and I’m not talking about eggs. You know your business has what image consultants call “quality perception issues” when you have to launch a PR initiative that publicly addresses such questions as: “Does McDonald’s beef contain worms?”

Thornier yet for the world’s largest burger machine is its boneheaded response to the remarkable, ongoing rebellion by fast-food workers, who’re demanding a $15-an-hour wage and the freedom to unionize without corporate retaliation. The overpaid and clueless executives at McDonald’s responded by — guess what? — retaliating against hundreds of the employees who joined the protests. Big Mac managers illegally reduced the hours (and therefore the pay) of those who joined the “Fight For 15” campaign, spied on them, interrogated and threatened them, and imposed restrictions on their freedom to even talk about unions or working conditions.

The corporation now faces federal charges on hundreds of labor law violations — as well as rising customer anger over its ham-handed tactics. Naturally, McDonald’s responded by apologizing and raising workers’ wages.

Ha! Just kidding. Instead, it’s running a new series of TV ads that, astonishingly, tries to tap into people’s emotions about such tragic events as 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombing, as well as linking its logo to people’s positive feelings about veterans, birthdays, and even “love.” McD’s corporate marketing director explains that the ads are all about the Golden Arches shining bright in every community, being with us through the good and the bad. As she puts it, “Who better to stand up for lovin’ than McDonald’s?”

What a joke. For over a decade the burger behemoth has pushed its product with an advertising slogan that exuberantly proclaims, “I’m Lovin’ It.”

But it turns out that putting words of praise in customers’ mouths doesn’t sell more burgers — in fact, customers have been putting fewer Big Macs, Chicken McNuggets, and other McEdibles in their mouths, causing sales to sag. This decline in affection has to do with the corporation’s boring burger, unappetizing news reports that some of its suppliers have been repackaging expired meat, its corporate-wide policy of paying poverty wages, its ruthless anti-union tactics and its cynical strategy of having taxpayers subsidize its labor costs by directing employees to go on food stamps and Medicaid.

Not to worry, though, for new CEO Don Thompson (the second replacement in the top slot in only two years) is all over these boo-boos. Is he offering real improvements in quality, wages and benefits, and corporate attitude?

Come on — get serious! This is McDonald’s, and its investors and bankers don’t fritter away profit taking on real solutions. Instead, Don is doubling down on that McLovin’ feeling. The new ad campaign is specifically designed to link the corporate brand to the healing power of love. The ads show Batman and the Joker breaking bread together over a Happy Meal, a mailman and a dog finding peace under the Golden Arches, and — how’s this for seriously clever? — a blue donkey and a red elephant sharing common ground at a McDonald’s formica table. Each ad closes with the lovely thought that you, I and everyone everywhere should “Choose Lovin’.”

Get it? Choose McDonald’s, for it’s the source of love, and you’ll truly be “Lovin’ It.” Not for nothing is CEO Thompson, who is paid $9.5 million a year, plus full health coverage, a platinum pension and private use of the corporate jet. Where else but America can you be so enriched for preaching Lovin’, while directing your corporate lobbyists to kill any increase in the poverty wages of your employees?

Just ask protesting workers about the “love” they’re getting from McDonald’s. Oh, to be fair, the bosses did make one change for workers — new uniforms, supposedly to buff up the corporation’s public image. That’s not just boneheaded, it’s pathetic! I forgot to mention that most of these low-wage employees were forced to buy the uniforms themselves. How’s that for McLove?

To find out more about Jim Hightower, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at

Photo: JKCarl via Wikimedia Commons

  • Daniel Jones

    I have had many ups and downs in my life. Two things I have never done are put myself in serious debt or sentence myself to the McGulag.

  • Gary Miles

    Fast food wasn’t ever meant to be healthy and working there never meant to be a career. Maybe everyone should go back to complaining about the Liberal education system that is putting people in positions that would require lifetime employment as a burger flipper. At least all those Unionized teachers who can’t teach still have high paying jobs.

    • Gayle1942

      “At least all those Unionized teachers who can’t teach still have high paying jobs.”
      Haha — you’re funny.

    • Roy C

      Those burger flippers once could move on to good paying manufacturing jobs that are now in low wage foreign countries. The outsourcing of jobs were all about greed and not unions. The U.S is getting more like China everyday.

      • Gary Miles

        I agree to a point. The manufacturing mess began with government intervention, aka, NAFTA, which began under Bush1 and signed by Clinton. Both parties allowed this to happen. This is what happens when governments get involved in the free market.

      • Whatmeworry

        You can thank he unions for that. They have run off all the high paying factories

        • Daniel Max Ketter

          Yeah, they screw the non-represented burger flippers for fair pay & benefits. If I was leading their bunch back in the days, we would be out picketing under the golden arches like we did at the car dealerships.

      • Whatmeworry

        You can thank he nonunions for that. They have run off all the high paying factories