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The Golden Arch of the Universe Bends Toward Injustice

The Other Side of the Tracks commentary from Socially Speaking  by Perry Redd

The weekly socio-political commentary from activist, Perry Redd

The weekly socio-political commentary from activist, Perry Redd

I’ve spent time talking and educating extensively on my radio Socially Speaking, about Walmart and its low wages, it’s resistance to cover its employees with health benefits and a host of other dishonorable workplace practices, but here I want focus on another American icon: McDonlad’s–everybody’s favorite and nost convenient American fast-food restaurant chain.  They too are devils…in a clown suit.

I was watching a CNN Money article on-line that proved what I have fighting against here in DC: taxpayers subsidizing super-rich corporations. McDonald’s workers should have no problem qualifying for government programs like food stamps and heating assistance, was the line on a website designed to aid McDonald’s front-line employees.  What’s wrong with this picture?

Keep in mind Republicans in congress want to de-fund the Farm Bill—which provides millions of poor and unemployed Americans small cash payments for food.  But these same Republicans write laws that allow large corporations, like McDonald’s, to keep their employees in poverty.

The U.S. Farm Bill is a comprehensive piece of legislation that covers most federal government policies related to agriculture in the United States. The Farm Bill is typically renewed every five years.

In 2010 alone, approximately 80% of all spending from the Farm Bill went toward domestic food assistance programs, with the remaining 10% dominated mostly by commodity programs. In 2010, SNAP benefits—or food stamps—totaled $64.7 billion, up from $34.6 billion in 2008 .  The increased funding for SNAP has paralleled its skyrocketing enrollment since the beginning of the current economic recession. So as rich people and super-rich corporations gobbled up more of America’s wealth, more Americans on the lower-end found themselves qualifying for food stamps.  In comes McDonald’s to the rescue.

The hamburger chain pretty much admits that “McDonald’s workers should have no problem qualifying for government programs like food stamps and heating assistance” in a call made by a worker to “McResource”– a helpline set up for its workers. The advocacy group Low Pay is not OK recorded a phone call made to the helpline by one McDonald’s worker Nancy Salgado. The group circulated an edited video of the recording. McDonald’s said the video was “not an accurate portrayal of the resource line” because it was “very obviously” edited. The content tells the story.

Salgado, who has worked at a Chicago McDonald’s for 10 years and makes $8.25 an hour, asked the McResource representative a number of questions related to getting assistance to pay for her heating bill, her groceries and her sister’s medical expenses. Salgado told the representative that she was recording the call for her sister. They were cool with that…
The helpline operator only confirmed the fact that she was a full-time employee. They never asked Salgado how much she made per hour, nor how many hours per week she worked.  But she said that Salgado “definitely should be able to qualify for both food stamps and heating assistance.”

What the McDonald’s representative did was pointed her toward a number of resources in the Chicago area, such as food pantries and a program that would help cover some of her heating bill. Is this the new corporate model?  I know Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindall hinted to this type of system in providing healthcare to poor Louisiana residents this weekend on ABC’s This Week.  The McDonald’s rep then said she would email Salgado specific phone numbers and programs.

The operator also explained that the McResource line is available to help McDonald’s workers who need help navigating the process of getting public assistance. The helpline’s phone number is posted in fliers at many McDonald’s locations.

McDonald’s said in a statement that “the McResource Line is intended to be a free, confidential service to help employees and their families get answers to a variety of questions or provide resources on a variety of topics including housing, child care, transportation, grief, elder care, education and more.”

You’ve got to be kiddin’ me! Socially Speaking this is robbery. The American taxpayer essentially subsidizes McDonald’s employees while the corporation gets away with not paying a Living Wage, childcare or healthcare to and for the very employees who make them billions in profits.  If you take an objective observation of American slavery, you’ll see the glaring similarities; corporations (plantations) make insane profit for the owners (planters) while paying the employees (slaves) the bare minimum (in the case of slavery, nothing)…some may protest that my equating McDonald’s with slavery is extreme, but no one can genuinely deny the similarities.  It is what it is…

Of course, this is morally corrupt as an American corporate practice is concerned, but moreover, this is demonstrative of capitalism.  There will be winners and losers; but why would we accept, us—the losers—paying for the winners to keep winning?  McDonald’s isn’t all bad; keep in mind that the line is not open to all McDonald’s workers. Franchise owners need to pay for the service in order for their employees to use it. Which means, some franchise owners would could care less about their employees, don’t have to make this “service” accessible.  If there’s a heart in there, you find it.

Those golden arches seems to bend mighty sharp when I look at ‘em. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”  I wonder what the golden arches are bending toward?

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