June 29, 2018

Educator Karlana Kulseth: Why I showed up at McDonald’s shareholders’ meeting

Corporate Accountability organizers and members ready to hold McDonald's accountable for its abuses at the McDonald's Shareholders' meeting.

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the McDonald’s shareholders’ meeting with Karlana Kulseth, an educator in the Las Vegas public schools system and a former assistant manager at McDonald’s. During the meeting, Karlana called on McDonald’s executives and investors to end the exploitative practice of McTeacher’s Nights and bring the corporation’s so-called charity in line with its stated values. During McTeacher’s Nights, teachers work behind McDonald’s counters without pay, serving burgers, soda, and fries to students. McDonald’s claims that these events raise money for schools, but in fact schools keep as little as ten percent of the proceeds. Impressionable children come away with the idea that their teachers endorse McDonald’s food, and the burger corporation gets the kind of marketing money can’t buy.

Karlana spoke about how painful it was as a manager to have to tell McDonald’s employees that their hours were being cut to accommodate McTeacher’s Night events. These are her reflections on being inside the meeting and speaking with McDonald’s investors and executives face to face.

Karlana posted the following blurb on her Facebook page the week after the meeting. The content has been slightly edited, with Karlana’s approval.

This last week, I was fortunate to work with Corporate Accountability to relay the message to McDonald’s at their shareholders’ meeting in Oak Brook, IL that enough is enough in using educators and students as free labor when promoting and conducting McTeacher’s Nights.

McTeacher’s Nights is a marketing event McDonald’s touts as one of its “charitable” ways of giving back to the community. The practice of these events is not as giving as it may appear. Educators and students serve the customers from the community and clean the lobby throughout McTeacher’s Night events. What many in the community do not realize is that when these events happen, employees of McDonald’s lose out on hours that they depend on to support their families. Some employees are told they cannot work during those hours of the event, thus cutting into their weekly scheduled hours, and taking away from their weekly take-home pay. As a former assistant manager, one of the most heartbreaking duties I had was to take away shift hours from my employees to accommodate McTeacher’s Night events. The tears, the screaming, the obscenities, and even the food thrown at me came as outbursts from employees who depended on their hours to survive and to support their families. In a world where the #fightfor15 is a reality across our nation to ensure all workers are earning a living wage and dignity on the job, this practice can be described as archaic at best.

What many also do not realize is that — while McDonald’s is utilizing educators and students to do most of the running around to complete and serve customers’ orders, as well as keep the lobby clean and inviting — McDonald’s is racking up the profits big time, because educators and students are working for FREE during this event. During this event, McDonald’s only gives about 10 – 20 percent of the sales back to the community school. Notice I stated sales, not profits. The educators and students just worked a 2-hour shift. Where is the charity within this practice?

My statement came as a call to not only force McDonald’s to understand this practice needs to be scrapped but also to force McDonald’s to be more transparent with its charitable donations with its shareholders and the public. With McDonald’s being a multi-billion dollar international corporation, it is necessary to see the hidden faces of its practices to force it to change.

My message is clear: STOP! STOP! STOP! Stop taking advantage of children and their families. Stop taking advantage of educators and the community. Stop utilizing this abusive practice of “fundraising” through free labor that results in high profits that the community schools do not see through their efforts in working such events.

I will be continuing this effort with Corporate Accountability until my work is done in ensuring that McDonald’s will no longer gain profits off the backs of educators and students. The National Education Association has already taken a stand in verbalizing that this practice must come to an end, including my testimony on the floor of the 2017 NEA Representative Assembly. Los Angeles Unified School District has also taken the stand to ban this practice. It will only be a matter of time before many educators and communities will stand up and speak out against this practice. I look forward to that moment when McDonald’s announces how it will finally end its so-called charity not only to community schools but also in other means as well, and listen to the many educators and community members like me.

McDonald’s will continue to hear from this former employee of the injustices she once had to endure. This was not a “one-and-done” case.

You can hear the full audio of Karlana’s statement from the meeting in full below.


Karlana Kulseth at 2018 McDonald’s shareholders’ meeting from Corporate Accountability on Vimeo.

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