McDonald's under fire from US church body
The general secretary of the National Council of Churches USA has expressed disappointment that the McDonald's Corporation has chosen to endorse what he calls an "anaemic code of conduct" for the treatment of its farm workers.
The Rev Dr Bob Edgar said McDonald's decision contrasts sharply with precedent-setting agreements earlier this year with two major food corporations - Taco Bell Corp, a division of Yum! Brands, and the Mt. Olive Pickle Co.
Both companies took major steps to improve the wages and working conditions of their farm labourers, but McDonald's has opted to "retreat and protect the status quo," Edgar said. The NCCUSA has been much involved in anti-poverty advocacy recently.
In June 2005, Edgar explained, the NCC wrote to McDonald's asking management "to follow Taco Bell's lead" and establish a similar agreement with its workers. Instead, McDonald's has announced it will adopt guidelines "designed by growers without worker input and does not address poverty wages."
"McDonald's," Edgar declared, "we at the National Council of Churches expect you to do better. You have acquired a strong reputation for social accountability. Now we expect you to build on that reputation to accomplish real change in partnership with the farm workers who are so sorely abused by the current system."
Edgar called upon McDonald's "to take immediate steps to work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to address poverty wages and exploitative working conditions in McDonald's own supply chain. Do not delay. Choose today to help advance human rights by working with the farm workers whose vision for justice is even now bearing its first fruits in the fields."
The National Council of Churches USA is composed of 35 Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, historic African American and peace communions representing 45 million Christians in 100,000 local congregations across the United States.
McDonald's has frequently been the target of campaigners for workers' rights, animal welfare, environmental protection and related causes.
In the famous McLibel it slapped writs on five activists for allegedly defaming it in a leaflet called ëWhat's Wrong With McDonalds?' (see McSpotlight).
The giant multi-billion dollar company was defied by two impoverished campaigners, Helen Steel and Dave Morris, who could not even afford lawyers. In spite of the odds stacked against them, they won the record-breaking two-year case on several counts and also took it to Europe.
[Available from the Ekklesia shop: two books by Jim Wallis - God's Politics, Why the American Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It; and Faith Works, Lessons on Spirituality and Social Action.
Also on Ekklesia: US churches challenge anti-poor law; Neglect of poor in US budget bill immoral, says leading evangelical; US churches respond to bias claims; American church leaders condemn torture; US Christians call for phased withdrawal from Iraq]