May 20, 2021

STATEMENT: Terrence Wise of Fight for $15 at McDonalds’ shareholders’ meeting

Today, Terrence Wise of Fight for $15 spoke truth to power at McDonalds’ annual shareholders’ meeting.

“My name is Terrence Wise and I am proud to be here representing Harrington Investments and introducing proxy item number 4TK, a proposal that would require McDonald’s to level with investors about the harms of its sugar-saturated products.

Last year you silenced me in introducing this same resolution, one that has enjoyed growing support with your partner Coca-Cola, as well as with Pepsi. I’ve read that McDonald’s is having trouble finding workers to sell those sugary drinks.

As you know, CEO Kempczinski, trustees and shareholders, RIGHT NOW, McDonald’s workers in 15 cities across the U.S. are on strike with one simple solution to your problem: Pay us $15 an hour and respect our right to a union. How does this relate to issuing a report on a) McDonald’s business in sugar-saturated products, b) targeted promotion of these products to kids, and children of color in particular c) political interference that perpetuates an epidemic of diet-related disease that disproportionately impacts Black and brown folks, and d) levels with stakeholders about the harms of all of the above?

In every way! Just as continuing to pay workers poverty wages when you, yourself, have acknowledged the corporation “will do just fine” with higher wages is exploitative, so, too, is saddling taxpayers and your workers with inordinate health costs. When our corporation doesn’t pay a living wage, guarantee paid sick leave, afford its “essential workers” adequate health safeguards, and exacerbates health inequities during a pandemic, someone has to pick up the tab.

As I recently told the U.S. Senate Budget Committee, I work for McDonald’s, the second largest corporation in America, and still rely on food stamps and Medicaid. I don’t receive as much as I did when I made $8 or $9 an hour, but still need help even though I work my tail off.

My family has been homeless despite two incomes. We’ve endured freezing temperatures in our purple minivan. I’d see my daughters’ eyes wide open, tossing and turning, in the back seat. Try waking up in the morning and getting ready for work and school in a parking lot with your family of five. That’s something a parent can never forget and a memory you can never take away from your children. You should never have multiple jobs in the United States and nowhere to sleep.

And that was before the pandemic. Since COVID-19 hit, it’s gotten even harder. And you can see the reason people aren’t rushing to work for McDonald’s and other corporations. We can’t live on what it pays. It doesn’t value our labor. It doesn’t value worker health, let alone the health of those it serves.

But it can and must change. When shareholders vote yes on this resolution, they will be demanding a culture shift at McDonald’s. For the corporation to absorb, as it says it can, the costs of doing business. From paying workers–across all of its restaurants–the minimum of what they’re worth: $15 an hour…to making clear the high and disproportionate human costs of selling a high volume of deeply unhealthy food.

Everyone who wakes up and works in our country deserves access to the promise that America made to each and every one of us: “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

It’s a promise that, to this day, remains unfulfilled for too many of us.”

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