Letter to McDonald’s CEO on 3rd Quarter Dividend

September 15, 2020

Chris Kempczinski, CEO
McDonald’s Corporation
110 N. Carpenter Street
Chicago, IL 60607

Dear Mr. Kempczinski:

McDonald’s has announced its intention to pay its third quarter 2020 dividend which will return approximately $950 million to shareholders on September 15th, 2020. McDonald’s shareholders have already received $1.9 billion in dividends this year. Throughout the pandemic, McDonald’s commitment to paying billions of dollars annually in dividends has shown that the company values its shareholders over the workers that are the face of the brand. While you personally declared in March 2020 that the continuation of dividends remains a “paramount priority” for McDonald’s, the company’s failure to provide paid sick leave to a substantial majority of its workforce suggests that you and your fellow executives do not view the wellbeing of workers as similarly paramount.1

Despite a range of serious pandemic-related dangers, McDonald’s cooks and cashiers have continued to serve customers with the fast food chain’s iconic burgers and fries. McDonald’s has claimed that its “number one priority is the health and safety of employees and customers” during the pandemic, but the company has repeatedly failed to protect the essential workers who keep the fast food chain operational.2 Indeed, in a June 2020 poll of more than 4,000 McDonald’s workers, 72 percent stated that their McDonald’s location does not offer paid sick leave.3 Across the country, scores of McDonald’s employees have tested positive for COVID-19, and unsafe conditions have prompted workers to strike in demand of better safety protections, paid sick leave, and other worker-friendly policies.

In particular, workers of color have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, and McDonald’s failure to adequately protect its employees has revealed the hollow nature of the company’s self-proclaimed alliance with the ongoing nationwide fight for racial justice. We, the undersigned, support the demands of McDonald’s workers for a safe workplace and ask that all or a portion of the dividend be diverted to guarantee that all McDonald’s workers have adequate paid sick leave.

Comparatively, providing workers with paid sick leave would constitute a minor expense. If one in ten McDonald’s workers in the United States contracted COVID-19 or needed to quarantine due to potential exposure to the virus, McDonald’s could provide two weeks of paid sick or quarantine leave at a wage of $15 an hour for roughly $60 million.4 Even if every McDonald’s worker around the country took two paid weeks off, it would cost the company $600 million — a price smaller than that of a single quarterly dividend payout. As McDonald’s workers endure the burden of the pandemic, your company has demonstrated time and time again that providing additional money to shareholders is a greater priority than protecting customers, workers, their families, and the general public.

The decision by a range of other major corporations to temporarily suspend dividend payments has further illuminated McDonald’s tone-deaf actions during the pandemic. For instance, companies including BP, Ford, and Macy’s have reduced or suspended dividend payouts.5

McDonald’s claims to stand against injustice, but the company’s actions during the pandemic have demonstrated the consistent prioritization of profit over worker wellbeing. Leadership matters, and the culture of carelessness fostered by McDonald’s executives has filtered down into a similar willingness by franchise owners and managers to place workers’ lives in danger. Mr Kempczinski: If your company hopes to advance the public good, it cannot continue putting hundreds of millions into shareholders’ pockets before acting to keep workers safe.

Signatory Organizations

Center for Popular Democracy
Color of Change
Fight for $15
Jobs With Justice
National Domestic Workers Alliance
National Employment Law Project
National Partnership for Women & Families
National Women’s Law Center
North Carolina Justice Center
One Fair Wage
Paid Leave for All
Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival