Who deserves a break today?
November 8, 2003 10:45 PM   Subscribe

McDonalds CEO Puts McJob in Mainstream. By taking Merriam-Webster to task for including McJob ("low paying and dead-end work") in its latest Collegiate Dictionary, McDonald's CEO Jim Cantalupo has ensured that yet another disparaging fast-food web-fed meme joins the venerable "You want fries with that?" If this had been Fox, I would have said it was intentional.
posted by mischief (39 comments total)
McDonald's CEO Jim Cantalupo said the term is "an inaccurate description of restaurant employment" and "a slap in the face to the 12 million men and women" who work in the restaurant industry.

They should be used to it by now, considering they get slapped in the face each time they pick up their minimum wage pay checks.
posted by 4easypayments at 11:30 PM on November 8, 2003

Did they also go after Coupland? If not, why not?

Dictionaries (at least in english) document language, they don't invent it.
posted by cell at 1:11 AM on November 9, 2003


The McOverlords have spoken.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:21 AM on November 9, 2003

i'm just a poor boy,
nobody loves me!
(spare him his life
from McMonstrosity!)

quarter pounder,
(quarter pounder)
quarter pounder, fries to go!

HamBurglar has a kid's meal put aside for me...

for me....

for meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

*play McAirGuitar, bangs McHead*
posted by quonsar at 1:44 AM on November 9, 2003

How is this a "web-fed meme"? It seems to me that the time to complain about "McJob" was, oh, ten years ago, when it was actually current.
posted by jjg at 2:41 AM on November 9, 2003

Damn union busters. Last time a Mcdonalds restaurant decided to form a union, Mcdonalds flew a team of people over to "talk to" the union sympathizers. Afterwards, people lost their jobs. In montreal 75% of the workforce signed it making it legitimate and 3 weeks before it became legally recongnized Mcdonalds closed the store and made a new one a block away.
posted by Keyser Soze at 4:56 AM on November 9, 2003

"How is this a 'web-fed meme'?" Can you say re-entrant?
posted by mischief at 5:59 AM on November 9, 2003


I like food, food tastes good!
I like food, food tastes good!
Juicy burgers, greasy fries,
Turkey legs and raw fish eyes,
Teenage girls, with ketchup too!
Get out of my way, or I'll eat you
I like food, food tastes good!
I like food, food tastes good!
I'm going to turn dining back into eating.
I like food, food tastes good!
I like food, food tastes good!

"Welcome to Der Wienerschnitzel,
May I take your order please?"
Yeah, I want:
Two large Cokes, two large fries,
Chili-cheese dog, large Dr. Pepper,
Super deluxe, with cheese and tomato.
"You want Bill sperm with that?"

*bangs quonsar's McHead*
posted by languagehat at 6:57 AM on November 9, 2003

Walt Riker, a spokesman for McDonald's, said the Oak Brook, Ill.-based fast-food giant also is concerned that "McJob" closely resembles McJOBS, the company's training program for mentally and physically challenged people.

So now they are claiming al their employees are "mentally and physically challenged?" What an outrage!
posted by Quartermass at 6:58 AM on November 9, 2003

Keyser Soze, how do you expect McDonald's to be unionized and still be profitable?

If anyone plans to start a union at my company (pretty hard right now when the only employees are the owners, at $300 CDN a month I might add) I'm closing the place too, no questions asked. I might even add that fact to the "So, you got a job" introduction form (when needed).

More importantly, unions are pointless and slow down the entire process of employees getting their "fair share". It's been 1 1/2 years, and my grievance at the company I no longer work for is still gathering dust, despite the fact that other workplaces in the same job market had settled the same issues with their workers that I was facing almost 8 months ago. I could have done better talking to management myself.

Unions are an anachronism of the bad old days of employment, when communism had its hey-day, and I'm glad to see companies like Maple Leaf give them the finger, and even happier to see companies like Toyota have such happy employees *THEY* give the union the finger, despite (because of?) repeated harrasment when entering work.

Other people I know have come to realise unions are a poor investment, having seen the results of protracted strikes on matters of little interest, or strikes on matters that don't even concern the union, on their families. Don't let a union happen to you! They will even attempt to use YOU, the worker, to undermine a democratically elected government (a government so popular, they were voted in again AFTER this general strike).

Worse than this, a large portion of monies that go to unions don't even support the worker. Instead they are funneled to Ontario's newest minority party (Can't mention them as minority parties aren't nameable in Parliament), comprising 18% of their funding, according to deflated numbers, despite the fact that VERY FEW of the workers support such socialist motives (else explain their lack of votes).
posted by shepd at 7:10 AM on November 9, 2003

Gee Shepd - you really don't like unions, do you. You wouldn't say that your opinions are colored by your position as a small business owner, would you ?

"Unions are an anachronism of the bad old days of employment, when communism had its hey-day" - You wouldn't mean those bad old days, at the turn of the century, when workers struggled for basic on-the-job rights (which we we now take for granted) or for a "living wage" - as defined by "a job that pays enough to keep the average sized family from starvation" - would you?

Would these "bad old days of employment" also happen to be the days of the Ludlow Massacre?

"Upon striking, the miners and their families had been evicted from their company-owned houses and had set up a tent colony on public property. The massacre occurred in a carefully planned attack on the tent colony by Colorado militiamen, coal company guards, and thugs hired as private detectives and strike breakers. They shot and burned to death 20 people, including a dozen women and small children. Later investigations revealed that kerosine had intentionally been poured on the tents to set them ablaze. The miners had dug foxholes in the tents so the women and children could avoid the bullets that randomly were shot through the tent colony by company thugs. The women and children were found huddled together at the bottoms of their tents.

The Baldwin Felts Detective Agency had been brought in to suppress the Colorado miners. They brought with them an armored car mounted with a machine gun--the Death Special-- that roamed the area spraying bullets"
(From the United Mine Workes of America website)

Here's a wider (and not unbiased) perspective on the Ludlow massacre:

" "God gave me my money."

John D. Rockefeller--the world's first billionaire--spoke these words in 1905. This is how the founder of the Standard Oil Trust--now known as Exxon, Mobil, Chevron, Amoco, etc.--explained the secret of his wealth.

Nine years after that interview, the bodies of two women and 11 children were dragged out from a cellar in Ludlow, Colo. They had choked to death when the Colorado state militia set the tent above them on fire.

Ludlow coal miners were on strike against the Colorado Fuel and Iron Co. Nine thousand miners had walked out of the company-owned camps on Sept. 23, 1913.

They struck against $1.68-a-day wages. They revolted against the CF&I; company stores, CF&I-controlled; schools, CF&I-censored;libraries and CF&I-bought-and-paid-for; ministers. "

Here, also, is a firsthand account from a young electrical engineer who witnessed the Ludlow Massacre.
posted by troutfishing at 8:17 AM on November 9, 2003

Why is Merriam-Webster singled out here? Is McDonalds goning after Harper Collins, American Heritage, and others?
posted by F Mackenzie at 8:36 AM on November 9, 2003

I've never heard the term before, but now, thanks to the McDonald's CEO, it is now a part of my vocabulary. I don't think that is what he had in mind.
posted by wsg at 9:28 AM on November 9, 2003

The McD CEO can go stick his head in a McPig. M-w only reposts english usage in print. they dont make up words. Hopefully their lawyers have told them they dont stand a chance in hell in a lawsuit.
posted by MrLint at 9:41 AM on November 9, 2003

I've held a good deal of McJob's so I do agree that McDonald's should unclench a bit here, (NTM treat their employees better). I also realize by the same token that any job where you get up in the morning and support yourself in an honorable one, and I don't feel like looking down on how anyone makes a living (barring obvious wrongness like hit men or drug dealers or Enron execs and the like), so no disrespect to girl who made me my burger yesterday.

Unions are an anachronism of the bad old days of employment,

You ever stop to consider that the reason that today is not as bad as the "bad old days" is because of the labor movement and unions? As somebody who's been involved in labor organization drives, you're applauding a finger to me. But that's your prerogative. Unions are a long way from perfect, but we still need em.
posted by jonmc at 10:06 AM on November 9, 2003

If anyone plans to start a union at my company (pretty hard right now when the only employees are the owners, at $300 CDN a month I might add) I'm closing the place too, no questions asked.

Sounds like you pay your workers fairly and I doubt they would have have any desire to join a union. But when a company decides to contruct a busniness plan around the labor of employees who arent being paid a living wage, then unionizing is their only recourse.
posted by 4easypayments at 10:07 AM on November 9, 2003




posted by Blue Stone at 12:22 PM on November 9, 2003

mcdonalds suing the dictionary?

hey, it could happen.
posted by mcsweetie at 2:06 PM on November 9, 2003


god, I love screaming that out.
posted by Stan Chin at 2:34 PM on November 9, 2003

Walt Riker, a spokesman for McDonald's, said the Oak Brook, Ill.-based fast-food giant also is concerned that "McJob" closely resembles McJOBS, the company's training program for mentally and physically challenged people.

McDonald's does have a long history of trying to control the use of this term. Back in 1992, a college instructor of mine - he was then dean of my program at that community college - made a speech in Kingston, Ontario in which he made use of the term McJobs. His speech was covered in a Kingston local paper - it perhaps had a circulation of 40,000. H. then received a letter from McDonald's informing him about the McJOBS program and saying that such a use of the term was slighting to them, that regular McDonald's employees enjoy lots of on the job benefits, etc.

I get so fed up with organizations that address every problem in terms of image presentation and control of semantics. I would not be at all surprised if McDonald's had so named this program McJobs in an effort to reclaim and control the use of the term. Cynical in a revolting kind of way, no? If McDonald's would treat their employees better they wouldn't have to worry about unionization or what people said about their human resources practices.
posted by orange swan at 4:41 PM on November 9, 2003

"Cantalupo also wrote that "more than 1,000 of the men and women who own and operate McDonald's restaurants today got their start by serving customers behind the counter."

McDonald's, the world's largest restaurant chain, has more than 30,000 restaurants and more than 400,000 employees. "

wow. that's about three percent of restaurants owned and operated by former McDonald's servers. that's quite a significant number. or not. seems that if a job at mcdonald's weren't seen as a temporary or dead end job, that number would be higher.
posted by zorrine at 7:44 PM on November 9, 2003

shepd: More importantly, unions are pointless and slow down the entire process of employees getting their "fair share".

Lumping all unions together is about as idiotic as lumping all business owners together. Like all things, they are not all equally well run.

Keyser Soze, how do you expect McDonald's to be unionized and still be profitable?

I don't eat at McDonald's so can't speak to them in particular, but since you're in Ontario, here's an example that is local to you: The World's Biggest Bookstore in Toronto was unionized for years. Chapters bought them out (or bought out Cole's, which owned them), Chapters was not (and still is not) unionized. I'm a big book buyer and am in Chapters, Indigo, and the WBB a few times each week. I never (and I mean NEVER--no exageration), have been served by the same person twice in Chapters and rarely in Indigo. I've been served by the same guy in WBB for over a decade.

Not too long ago, I asked him how long he's been there. 10 years (double the longest I've ever been at a non-self-employed job). I told him I thought that was great and he said, "Yeah, but you know what, there are 12 people who work here who have been here longer than I have."

WBB was a profitable (and very popular) book store before Chapters fucked it up. It's a sorta wasteland now and, as you probably know, Chapters itself is a shitass business and I doubt anyone will be suprised when the chain tanks (or Indigo closes a lot of the Chapters locations). It's not unionized. WBB is (or, was). They're both selling the same product at pretty much the same price. One managed to be profitible for decades and the other one hasn't lasted a single decade yet.

And as for your comment about the OFL (Ontario Federation of Labour) supporting NDP... what do you expect them to do? NDP obviously is (was) the party that supported labour the most. Admittedly, it'll be interesting to see what they do now that NDP is "out". But condemning them because they back a political party is pretty silly. It's pretty obvious that they would want people in power whose beliefs are in line with their own, no? I mean, isn't that how you and all "organizations" decide how to vote?
posted by dobbs at 10:34 PM on November 9, 2003


Things I had at my unionized job (at a university), before I left to go back to school full time:

A decent wage
Prorated payment of my undergraduate tuition, up to 100% when I was working full time
Flexible hours, including a year job-sharing one position (3 days/2 days)
In house training courses: html, photoshop, filemaker, how to use a scanner, all that kind of stuff
A grievance procedure to follow when one of my coworkers became insufferable (we were sharing an office; she was moved)
A dental plan (worth its weight in gold, that)
Extended medical, covering eyeglasses, prescriptions, etc.
Lay off protection
Sick pay
Sick leave
Union representation in case of grievance
Protection from summary dismissal
A contract which spelled all this out, and everyone's rights and responsibilities

etc., etc.

Now tell me again that unions are useless.
posted by jokeefe at 12:13 AM on November 10, 2003

I've never heard the term before... Really? I read it in Generation X in 94. Wasn't that word a big deal[tm] back then?
posted by dabitch at 4:54 AM on November 10, 2003

(ah, cell beat me to pointing out Coupland)
posted by dabitch at 4:56 AM on November 10, 2003

troutfishing, how about an example of how unions are an effective and contributory part of business in today's economy, instead of reaching back a hundred years to a time and business climate that might as well be headed by a pharoah and centered on pyramid building for all its relevance to current issues? Why is it that union sympathizers don't ever seem to have contmporary examples of unions' benefits to workers and the companies that employ them?
posted by JollyWanker at 5:12 AM on November 10, 2003

This was the first time I had heard the term as well.

My department (electrical engineers, robotics engineers and electronics techs) is the only non-union section in the production side of where I work. As such, we get benefits (albeit unofficial) far above what the union employees can expect. The main reason being if they strike, we have the expertise to maintain production. Granted, we could probably only fix about 80% of any mechanical breakdowns, we have enough redundant production lines to overcome such issues in the short term.

Scab? You bet!
posted by mischief at 6:14 AM on November 10, 2003

Speaking of which, a strike started yesterday at the original Borders Bookstore. According to the sign-carrying guy I talked to, the store refused to negotiate with the union. (It's a bit frustrating to see people crossing the picket line when there are 3 other bookstores on the same block.)
posted by Tlogmer at 9:08 AM on November 10, 2003

I'd go out of my way to cross a picket line. ;-P
posted by mischief at 10:42 AM on November 10, 2003

Mischief, you remind me of Dr. Laura, who is also one to dump all over a movement (feminism) while benefitting enormously from the rights and privileges said movement has won for her.
posted by orange swan at 12:50 PM on November 10, 2003

jollywanker - given that the wages of the bottom quintile of American workers have fallen since 1970, the wages of the next higher quintile are probably either declining or stagnating, and that the middle quintile is running ever faster to stay in place (two worker families, for example) - I'd say your claim - that my reference to turn of the century battles to unionize in America are as relevant to current issues as pharoahnic times centered on pyramid building - is about as comprehensible to me as Linear "B".

Or to put it differently - have you ever worked at a Wal-Mart? Do you plan to apply for a job there because of the generous benefit packages?

Globalization is reducing American unions to the status of relics or endangered species, sure. Are they then irrelevant?

The same unionization battles which were fought almost one hundred years ago in the US - for living wages, basic worker rights, overtime, maternity leave, and so on are now beginning to be fought in the developing world. Meanwhile, most Americans are either losing real economic ground or running harder just to catch up. But - except in the wildly improbable case that world populations were somehow enabled to migrate around the world as freely as does business and capital - the mobility of business and capital will inevitably exert an overall downward pressure on wages, and especially among the world's affluent populations.

Adam Smith recognized this problem in his time - the need, in an optimally efficient market system, for an equal mobility of capital AND labor and so Smith was a champion for the rights of the poor to move freely about in Britain (they were at the time constrained by various laws and regulations).

I think that those unions which provide collective bargaining for workers in government, at all levels (city, town, state, federal) empower their members and protect them to some extent from abuses of power by management . As for the rest of the unions......

Well I'd agree with what I see as your general drift - that they can be adversarial and so counterproductive. But this is a two way street: corporate management in the US has taken to treating workers on the whole, in the style of Jack Welch, as mere numerical impediments to profitability, numbers to be cut rather than as humans who might be facing catastrophic job loss. Now globalization and increases in productivity make some job cuts inevitable. But - at least in the US - the government does not believe, officially, in a policy of investing much federal money in job creation (although it does this unofficially through DOD spending). So the pool of Americans out of work, laid off, those who have quit the job market or who never have entered - as well as Americans working part time jobs, multiple part time jobs amounting to more than 40 hours a week, those who have migrated downwards into jobs with lower pay and fewer benefits, and so on - this pool is ever growing while at the same time executive compensation is at a near all time high (a little down now from the DotCom days but still bizarrely high by the standards of other wealthy industrialized nations).

Where am I going with this? Well, I'm suggesting the need for mutual concessions, in certain cases where industries are losing profitability or in danger of bankruptcy, on the part of both workers and management - including management at the highest levels.

Humans are most bothered by relative differences in economic wellbeing, and in "fairness" - and this then is the heart of the new economic tensions arising in the US: the tension between the downwardly mobile rump of the American electorate and the fantastic prosperity enjoyed by that less than one percent of wage earners (not to mentions, even, the rentier class, those who need not work at all but merely live off interest in investments) who have come to believe that they are fundamentally different from, and superior to, the swarming masses they survey from their positions of tremendous privilege.
posted by troutfishing at 1:42 PM on November 10, 2003

privileges said movement has won for ...
swan: You betcha! It is also my section's unwritten goal to eliminate a minimum of 5% of all production positions each year. We're not out to get anyone laid off however, because attrition easily accounts for the reduced workforce. Capitalism: you gotta love it!

Also swanny: Enjoy your freedom of speech that veterans like myself risked our lives to protect. You're not a vet by any chance, are you?
posted by mischief at 3:08 PM on November 10, 2003

I didn't say anything against capitalism. It works better for a complex, modern society than any other economic system that's ever been tried. But it's like a powerful horse, and we're the riders who must rein it in so it doesn't take us to places we don't want to go - child labour, wages it's impossible to live on, unsafe working conditions, environmental messes, products that don't meet basic health and safety standards, etc. Unbridled capitalism is a bad thing, and unions are one of the means we have to curb the runaway horse. Yes, they are problematic, yes, they can be useless in some situations, but they've done a lot of good and continue to do some and I don't have much patience with this "unions suck and I love crossing picket lines" attitude.

No, I'm not a vet (30-year-old Canadian woman - what are the odds), and I certainly enjoy my freedom of speech. And you'll notice that I don't use this freedom to make derogatory and unfair generalizations about soldiers or veterans.
posted by orange swan at 7:11 PM on November 10, 2003

So, what did I say that was 'unfair' (whatever that means)?

I also live off the benefits of the guys who invented the wheel and discovered how to create fire. While your point may have given you comfort in its own microcosm, in the overall scheme of things, it meant nothing.

The word you are seeking is 'hubris', and not all of us regard it as a fault. ;-P
posted by mischief at 8:31 PM on November 10, 2003

I'd go out of my way to cross a picket line. ;-P

I objected to this.
posted by orange swan at 9:10 PM on November 10, 2003

Since fire and the wheel are long-established general benefits to society, no deference is due to them or to their practitioners. If we were cave MeFites, carving our pictorial messages on the walls of Matt's cavern at the time fire was first being used and you depicted the opinion, "Hey, when I see people trying to teach others to start fires, I spit on the spark," yeah, I'd probably tell you to show some respect. Or just drag you off somewhere by your hair:-)
posted by orange swan at 9:24 PM on November 10, 2003

That whooshing sound you're hearing is the point sailing completely over the head of McDonald's CEO Jim Cantalupo. The term "McJobs" doesn't refer to jobs that are like the jobs at McDonald's. It refers to interchangeable, mass-produced jobs that are homogeneous in their mediocrity, much like fast-food hamburgers. The slight is against McDonald's product, not its workers.
posted by kindall at 12:24 AM on November 11, 2003

dobbs, I condemn the unions for doing this because MY union money was being funneled to political parties I don't support, and, more importantly, was being misappropriated by being funneled away from activites that protect my rights as a worker (Don't suggest the NDP are all about that, they invented the "Rae Day" where workers were forced, by law, to refuse work).

If you would like, I can point to a great number of unions that have done similar things. Likely enough to constitute a majority. However, this discussion is cold now (damn my work and how hard I have to do it - I NEED A UNION TO FORCE MYSELF TO PAY ME MORE, dammit).

Explain how the *only* tool a union has against an employer (the "strike") is actually useful in a climate where a single week of lost work can, in fact, put a business under? The strike seems to be a great way of reforming an employer. Sort of like reforming someone through the death penalty. THEY'LL NEVER DO THAT AGAIN, I TELLS YA!

Tell me, troutfishing, if I owned a McDonald's and killed workers who refused to work, would I get away with it, despite the fact they have no union?

Sounds like I would!

But, of course, I wouldn't. You help prove my point that unions are an anachronism in a day and age where everyone has equal rights, and in a day and age where human rights are held in the utmost regard.

Find me an example of someone actually harmed (physically or mentally, not by the pocketbook, that's a lame excuse) at a company where the company was able to get off "scot free" because the worker wasn't in a union. Examples where it doesn't matter if the worker is in a union or don't count.

I bet 10 mefi bucks you can't even find me a single one.
posted by shepd at 1:35 AM on November 11, 2003

That's not exactly the issue, shepd. The issue is whether the employee (say, for instance a factory of construction worker) might not have been killed, had a union been there to force the company to have proper health and safety controls. Examples of this kind of case would be relatively easy to did up. Find an industry in which numerous workers were killed back in "them bad old days", say, mining. Examine union pressures to improve safety. Compare to how many people are killed now. We all know a lot of private businesses wouldn't do anything to improve the conditions of their workers unless forced to by unions or government. It's not in their interest to improve work safety, particulary in the current "buyers" job market.

Striking isn't the only tool either, by the way. It's called collective bargaining.
posted by Jimbob at 11:48 PM on November 12, 2003

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