An expose by Motherboard revealed that McDonald’s has established a team of “intelligence analysts” who are tasked with spying on its employees to find out if they are involved in a popular movement seeking a minimum wage hike.
At the heart of the controversy is the “Fight For $15” movement. The group seeks to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour and is active on social media. The fast food chain has been internally labeling employees who are working with the group as a security threat and has been spying on them and monitoring their behavior online.
They’ve set up a team of intelligence analysts working out of Chicago and London to identify which of their workers are active in the movement and who they are working alongside to organize protests and strikes or try to create unions.
A $15 minimum wage hike is part of Joe Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package, although that aspect of the bill has become a major sticking point and may not pass. The federal minimum wage has been sitting at $7.25 per hour for more than a decade.
McDonald’s is reportedly particularly concerned about workers who want the right to join unions like the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, along with higher pay and better working conditions.
Documents that were obtained by Motherboard showed that McDonald’s wanted to collect “strategic intelligence” on “counter-parties” and "political intelligence on difficult political landscapes in complex markets that could cause significant business disruption and impact returns on investment."
The secret intel team is tasked with determining where and how Fight For $15 will attack their brand. In one report, they tracked individual labor activists’ activities, including keeping a list of the number of virtual and in-person protests each one attended. They cited events such as protests in parking lots, people driving through parking lots and drive-throughs with signs on their cars, individuals blocking traffic, and people parking billboard trucks with messages about Fight For $15 at their restaurants and headquarters.
In addition to internal analysts, McDonald’s has been using data collection software and social media monitoring tools to scrape data that is openly available online to monitor their employees' social media accounts. Sources said they were using the tool to reconstruct the friends lists and social networks of employees who were involved in the labor movement via fake Facebook personas.
A former corporate employee of the fast-food chain who asked to keep their identity anonymous to avoid retaliation told the publication: "The entire thing was messed up. A company should be working with employees and the people that drive the business, not building an intelligence program directed at reporting on those same people."
Another of the fast food chain's concerns is the advocacy campaign launched by the ACLU pressuring the fast food chain to give all of its employees paid sick leave.
Fight for $15 has already been successful in lobbying for a minimum wage of $15 in states like Florida, California, Massachusetts, Maryland, Illinois and New York. It is considered one of the most successful labor movements to be seen in recent decades.
Sources for this article include: