Student groups blast new McDonald's study, "Economic Impact: Tomatoes in Florida, Report 1"
April 28, 2006
Mr. Jim Skinner, CEO
We expected better from your company.
No, we were not shocked when McDonald's initial response to the dire human rights crisis in Florida's fields resembled a carefully scripted crisis management plan.
No, we were not surprised when your company – in blatant contempt for the industry-changing precedents established in last year's agreement between the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and Yum! Brands – embarked on a path to keep thousands of farmworkers in its tomato supply chain impoverished in pre-modern labor conditions.
No, we were not even taken aback when McDonald's commissioned (or, in simpler terms, bought) a study to “prove” the rather difficult assertion that you are acting in the best interest of farmworkers by pushing them away from the table where decisions are made about their lives and keeping their wages at sub-poverty levels.
Where your paternalism and disregard for human dignity failed to shock us, the recent release of that report, "Economic Impact: Tomatoes in Florida, Report 1," completely astonished us. Simply put, this study is a joke, but the punchline is muted by the reality of grinding poverty for thousands of farmworkers.
Don't just take our word for it. Dr. Bruce Nissen, a well-respected labor economist and the Director of the Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy at Florida International University, recently commented that “almost nowhere [in the study] are ordinary norms of social science research followed,” and therefore it “should have no credibility whatsoever.” He continues:
Over two dozen scholars and counting in the fields of labor law, labor relations and social research have, upon reading your study, publicly stated they agree with Dr. Nissen’s analysis.
It is one thing to commission a bogus study to prove that workers' calls for change are unfounded. This tactic has been deployed, albeit unsuccessfully, in the garment industry for years. However, to commission a study executed with such breathtaking incompetence is beyond the pale of comprehension.
Certainly a $1.2 billion annual advertising war chest can buy a better study than this. As we said, we expected better from your company.
In 2005, Larry Light, McDonald's global chief marketing officer, told the Nation's Restaurant News that, “[McDonald's] new sweet spot is 18- to 24-year-olds.” You have spent tirelessly in an effort to buy our loyalty as consumers with hip, cool images of young people “lovin'” McDonald's. Now you seem to believe that you can even buy off our commitment to standing in solidarity with farmworkers with a sinister PR move masquerading as science. Your disdain for our intelligence only fuels our anger.
Students and young people were on the front lines of the four-year Taco Bell Boycott and if you do not want to face similar protest, your actions are not making that clear. If you currently believe that we are your “sweet spot,” we are here to tell you that we will become your sore spot. It's not too late to change course.
Bob Langert, McDonald's, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility
PO Box 603, Immokalee, FL 34143 :: (239) 657-8311 :: organize (at) sfalliance.org