Congressional scorecard illustrates fast food industry’s impact on minimum wage, public health, environment
BOSTON, MA—A new report by Corporate Accountability International, with the support of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, Food Chain Workers Alliance and Real Food Media, charts the National Restaurant Association’s (“The Other NRA”) outsized influence in U.S. politics on behalf of major restaurant industry players like McDonald’s and Darden.
The release of the report, titled “Want fries with that (policy)?” coincides with the National Restaurant Association’s annual Capitol Hill lobby meetings and the Stop the Other NRA coalition’s countervailing events. It also comes as tens of thousands of people mobilize to demand government transparency as part of Democracy Awakening.
The report examines how the National Restaurant Association:
- Does the bidding of large, transnational corporations like McDonald’s and Darden, despite purporting to represent small businesses.
- Sways votes on issues ranging from the minimum wage to GMO food labeling, unionization, and even the Keystone XL pipeline.
- Buys influence and votes with key members of Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan.
The report finds that, between the 2012 and 2014 election cycles, the top recipients of NRA contributions not only voted in line with the NRA’s interests, but often introduced or co-sponsored its high-priority bills. For example, Rep. John Kline (R-MN), who received $20,000 from the NRA during the 2012 and 2014 election cycles, sponsored legislation that would have weakened workers’ ability to unionize. Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), who received $10,000 from the NRA during the 2012 and 2014 election cycles, co-sponsored legislation that would have required people to work more hours to qualify for employer-paid health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
“The National Restaurant Association exercises more influence on workers’ rights, environmental and public health policies than any other entity in Washington,” said Sriram Madhusoodanan, director of the Value [the] Meal campaign at Corporate Accountability International. “It shields corporations like McDonald’s from public scrutiny while it peddles those corporations’ anti-worker, anti-public health agenda on Capitol Hill.”
The report illustrates the ways the National Restaurant Association maximizes each dollar it contributes to political campaigns. For instance, the NRA’s relatively small political contributions, coupled with its decades of lobbying, have compelled lawmakers to prevent minimum wage increases for decades, exacerbating economic inequalities throughout the United States.
“The NRA enables fat cat executives to give themselves pay raises while stripping hundreds of millions of dollars from some of the lowest-paid workers in America,” said Jose Oliva, co-director of the Food Chain Workers Alliance. “There is seemingly no limit to the influence a few thousand dollars from the NRA can buy.”
The NRA has spent $34.6 million in lobbying since 1998. In the 2014 election cycle, together with its political action committee (PAC), it spent more than $1.3 million in political contributions. Many of the politicians that received the most money from the NRA sponsored or co-sponsored more than a dozen Congressional bills between 2012 and 2015.
“For years, the National Restaurant Association has bought votes and stalled policy, acting as a front group for restaurant corporations like Olive Garden and McDonald’s that are paying workers poverty wages and driving an epidemic of diet-related disease,” said Saru Jayaraman, co-director and co-founder of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United. “It’s time shareholders and policymakers alike say, ‘enough is enough,’ and demand the NRA stop interfering in food policy.
The report also finds that corporations like McDonald’s use the NRA to claim one policy position while lobbying for another. For instance, while McDonald’s claims to be on the side of workers’ rights and public health, it uses the NRA to lobby aggressively for keeping wages low and stripping environmental protections. McDonald’s shareholders have filed a resolution demanding McDonald’s report on this incongruence at the corporation’s annual meeting in May.
The report draws its conclusions from an analysis of bills that the National Restaurant Association lobbied on over the past two legislative sessions. It identifies members of Congress who are most actively advancing the NRA’s agenda by analyzing the issues and bills that receive the most attention from the NRA, and identifying the members of Congress who sponsored and co-sponsored those policies. It examines the voting records of members of Congress who received the most money from the NRA, the NRA PAC, McDonald’s, McDonald’s PAC, Darden Restaurants, and Yum! Brands during the 2012 and 2014 legislative cycles.
To download the full report, visit Corporate Accountability International.