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The 7 Worst Things About McDonald's

Forcing employees to work on Christmas without overtime pay is just the beginning.

Photo Credit: Jason Patrick Ross /


McDonald’s has become synonymous with food that’s terrible for you, low-wage jobs and overzealous marketing to children. Largely that’s because of McDonald’s scale; the company serves more customers each day than the entire population of Great Britain, and it hires some one million workers each year (reportedly one in eight Americans have been employed by McDonald’s).

This is all to say that there’s a lot to hate about McDonald’s. As such, here is a not-comprehensive list of some of the more outrageous facts about McDonald’s, past and present.

1. It wants employees to work Thanksgiving and Christmas without overtime pay.

McDonald’s has a long history of terrible labor practices, but this is especially Scroogey: this holiday season the company urged franchisees to stay open on Thanksgiving and Christmas (McDonald’s restaurants are usually closed on those holidays). Worse, employees who work those days don’t get paid overtime. According to a company spokesperson, “When our company-owned restaurants are open on the holidays, the staff voluntarily sign up to work. There is no regular overtime pay.”

Mark E. Andersen at the Daily Kos crunched the numbers and figured out that McDonald’s made about $36 million in extra sales by staying open this Thanksgiving. Andersen notes, “It is bad enough that McDonald’s pays crap wages but then they turn around and refuse to pay overtime for employees who volunteer to give up their holidays so that McDonald’s can make several million dollars.” Yup.

2. Workers don’t get fair pay in general.

Not getting overtime pay on major holidays is bad, but unfair wages is a widespread problem for McDonald’s workers year-round. As Sarah Jaffe wrote at the Atlantic recently, “[t]he term ‘McJob’ has come to epitomize all that's wrong with the low-wage service industry jobs that are a growing part of the U.S economy” because “no matter what your job might be, it's assumed to be better than working in a fast-food restaurant.” And of course, McDonald’s is the biggest fast-food restaurant chain there is.

There have been many examinations of McDonald’s pay structure, but this fact sums up the problem best: the average McDonald’s employee would need to work one million hours – or more than a century – to make as much as the company's CEO makes in one year ($8.75 million).

The good news is that fast-food workers, including a number of McDonald’s employees, have been organizing for better treatment and fair wages in recent weeks.

3. Its marketing for kids is “creepy and predatory.”

Two years ago the watchdog group Center for Science in the Public Interest threatened to sue McDonald’s over its “creepy and predatory” marketing practices aimed at children. In its letter of intent to the company, CSPI likened McDonald’s to “the stranger in the playground handing out candy to children” and said the company uses “unfair and deceptive marketing” to “lure small children into McDonald’s.”

McDonald’s duplicitous approach to marketing directed to children can be seen in a recent press release that boasts that the company’s Shrek-based promotion will “encourage kids to ‘Shrek Out’ their Happy Meals around the world with menu options like fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and fruit juices.” In reality, though, the whole point of the Shrek promotion is to get kids into McDonald’s where they most likely will end up being served unhealthy default options and eating unhealthy meals.

That wasn’t the first time McDonald’s had come under fire for its use of Happy Meal toys to rope in children as customers, and given that the company is the number-one toy distributor in the world, it surely it won’t be the last.

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