A misguided Big Mac attack


— Two weeks ago, I was sent a video of a Hispanic woman interrupting a speech by Jeff Stratton, president of McDonald’s USA. He was giving a speech at the Union League Club of Chicago. Nancy Salgado, the Hispanic woman in question, became Exhibit A for what is gone wrong in today’s workforce: rudeness and what the Bible calls slothfulness.

Salgado is a 26-year-old cashier at a McDonald’s in Chicago. She has two children out of wedlock and earns $8.25 an hour for working 30 to 40 hours a week. She has worked for McDonald’s since she was 16 and claims, without offering any documentation, that she has never received a raise in her decade of working at Mickey D’s.

Salgado rudely interrupted Stratton’s speech by shouting, “Do you think it’s fair that I have to be living on a poverty wage? Do you think it’s fair that I am making $8.25 while I’ve worked for McDonald’s for 10 years? Do you think it’s fair? My two kids are struggling because you can’t raise our minimum wage. I don’t believe that’s fair. What do you have to say?”

If I had been in the audience, I would have gladly answered for Stratton.

No, you don’t have to live on poverty wages. If you have been with a local franchisee for 10 years and have never received a raise, then there must be a whole lot more to your story that you aren’t sharing. McDonald’s has one of the best training programs for employees in the United States. It is not possible to work for a franchisee, take advantage of their training programs and not to receive raises and promotions. That can’t happen at McDonald’s, if you have a commendable work record.

The second point: It’s not McDonald’s fault that you decided to have two kids without the benefit of being married. If you couldn’t afford to have children, why didn’t you abstain, take birth control, or get married and then have kids?

Salgado wants to put that responsibility at the feet of McDonald’s? Really? Give me a break. She made a series of horrible decisions and now she wants someone else to foot the bill for her mistakes.

The interruption was orchestrated by a liberal group that advocates $15 an hour wages for fast food industry employees. Salgado and the other protesters were issued tickets by the police for trespassing.

I called Jessica Desvarieux, the reporter who interviewed Salgado for The Real News Network in Baltimore. A more appropriate name for the outfit would be “The Real Liberal News Network.” In our conversation, she attempted to portray Salgado as a martyr.

After I challenged Desvarieux on her bias, she rushed off of the phone, saying she had a meeting to attend. She had absolutely no interest in balancing her story with McDonald’s point of view or asking Salgado why she never took advantage of McDonald’s training programs.

I had an opportunity to discuss the issue with Don Thompson, the president and CEO of McDonald’s Corp. I mentioned that I thought McDonald’s specifically and the fast food industry in general, has done a horrible job of addressing these types of volatile issues. He acknowledged that they could do a better job in this area.

McDonald’s has a great story to tell, but for some reason they seem reluctant to tell it. The first thing they need to do is to reach out to their own franchisees, especially those in the black and Hispanic communities. I would start with Van Jakes, a retired N.F.L. cornerback and a McDonald’s franchisee for 21 years. He represents all that is good in a former professional athlete. He is a good corporate citizen in the Atlanta community and has been a good McDonald’s franchisee.

During Van’s time with McDonald’s, he has had employees start at the bottom and now own their own restaurants. He found it inconceivable that any of his employees could work for him for 10 years, take advantage of the employee training programs, and still be in the same position that they started in. Others in the chain share that sentiment.

If McDonald’s does not challenge these lies, they will become the truth. McDonald’s seems to be headed down the same wayward road that other corporations have traveled. I have worked with the oil industry, the nuclear power industry, and the music industry, providing strategic advice to each on how to navigate certain issues that could hurt their brand.

My experience is that corporations tend to be more reactive than proactive. They don’t seem to realize that it is cheaper and wiser to prevent a problem rather than wait to correct it.

To McDonalds, I say stop being afraid to tell your story and take advantage of the great people you have within your organization, including Van Jakes.

And when it comes to Nancy Salgado and other malcontents, if they are that unhappy with their job, they can pick up their last check the same way customers pick up their Big Macs and French fries at the drive-thru window— to go.

Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his website: www.raynardjackson.com.