November 2, 2016

L.A. teachers to McDonald’s: Stay away from our students

This post was originally published on BeyondChron.

This week, Los Angeles teachers made it very clear: it’s time for McDonald’s to stay away from their students and schools. “Across the country and in Los Angeles, McDonald’s is exploiting our schools and teachers to market its unhealthy fare to children,” said Cecily Myart-Cruz, vice president of United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA).

McDonald’s and the junk food industry have long preyed on the basic vulnerabilities of children to market unhealthy food to them and turn them into customers for life. One distressing and unconscionable marketing tactic McDonald’s uses is McTeacher’s Nights, where the corporation has teachers work behind the counters in local stores selling burgers, fries, and soda to students and students’ families. McDonald’s claims McTeacher’s Nights “help raise funds” for local communities, but it’s a thinly veiled marketing tactic.

A growing number of parents and educators understand this, which is why last month, UTLA, whose 31,000 members make it the second-largest teachers union local in the country, announced a resolution condemning McTeacher’s Nights. The resolution decried the events and urged UTLA members not to participate.

Today, UTLA is going a step further and calling on L.A.-area franchisees to end McTeacher’s Nights entirely. In a letter released this morning, Myart-Cruz wrote to area franchise owners demanding they immediately stop pushing McTeacher’s Nights within the Los Angeles Unified School District and across Southern California.

Myart-Cruz cites three critical reasons why UTLA is calling for a stop to McTeacher’s Nights:

  1. We are in the midst of a health crisis, one that increasingly affects our children. The predatory marketing of fast food to children is driving an epidemic of childhood obesity and diet-related diseases like type 2 diabetes, which disproportionately affects black and brown children.
  2. It is wrong to exploit teachers’ authority and popularity — and the trust they have earned — to lure children to McDonald’s.
  3. McTeacher’s Nights are ineffective fundraisers. They often raise as little as $1 per student. Schools receive as little as 10 percent of the proceeds of an event, while McDonald’s pockets the rest.

You can read the full letter here.

UTLA’s actions build on a growing call demanding McDonald’s stop targeting our children. Last year, more than 50 national, state, and local teachers unions, including the National Education Association, called on McDonald’s to end McTeacher’s Nights. These groups collectively represent more than 3 million educators across the country.

Parents, educators and McDonald’s own shareholders have also consistently raised concerns around its marketing practices, including at its annual shareholders’ meetings. No doubt, after a year of pressure from teachers unions, parents, and public health advocates, McDonald’s is feeling the heat: earlier this year it quietly pulled its “McDonald’s Educates” website.

From local actions like those by UTLA and soda taxes on city ballots, to national policies like the USDA’s updated school wellness policies, the public shows an increasing understanding of the role junk food corporations play in driving a dire health crisis. No matter how McDonald’s tries to spin its marketing in schools, more and more people are not “lovin’ it.”

It’s high time for McDonald’s to take a hint and heed the call of teachers and parents alike and end these events for good.

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