Some teachers and students are gathering at local McDonald's restaurants for "McTeacher’s Night," an event in which the teachers serve fast food to students, parents and regular customers.
Part of the sales stemming from McTeacher’s Night -- about 15-20 percent -- go to school-related fundraising causes, notes AlterNet.
While the money goes to good causes, a few groups are trying to stop McTeacher’s Night. In that list are two watchdog groups, the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood and the Corporate Accountability International. Also, the National Education Association, which is a teacher's union.
"From the very beginning, it struck us as fundamentally wrong and unconscionable that McDonald’s is getting in front of children and in schools and exploiting their relationship with teachers to develop brand loyalty," said Sriram Madhousoodanan of Corporate Accountability International.
"Teachers are working so hard as it is," Madhousoodanan added. "They don’t need to be taken advantage of by the world’s leading junk food corporation to become walking billboards."
However, many teachers are enthusiastic about McTeacher’s Night. They post pictures, comments and hashtags on Twitter and Facebook.
Julie Travers, who has organized hundreds of McTeacher’s Nights in Illinois over the past six years, told AlterNet that she has "never seen any negative remarks from teachers or parents."
"It’s so the opposite of what the negative articles are saying," Travers added. "We really get unjustly targeted."
Mark Noltner, a teacher in Illinois who started the campaign to stop McTeacher’s Night, told AlterNet: "As a teacher myself it crossed a lot of ethical boundaries. [McTeacher’s Nights are] another way for McDonald’s to get their foot into schools and attract young consumers."
According to Noltner, his daughter’s school does not do McTeacher’s Night anymore, and adds, "We can raise the same amount of money, if not more, without the help of a huge corporation."
David Bear, who owns 16 McDonald’s franchises in Illinois, countered:
it’s easy to point your fingers at a large target like McDonald’s and say that we’re the cause for a lot of things that are going wrong with our society.
[McTeacher’s Nights] are really a wonderful thing and for [opponents] to say that we’re marketing and profiting off the schools and lead to childhood obesity, I think all those claims are unfounded.
Most of these nights are done by McDonald’s franchise owners like myself, not the corporation. We are people who live in the community and we’re trying to find ways to help back with the school systems, park districts, libraries and all those civic organizations that need additional funding.
We try to find ways we could help and McDonald’s is a great avenue to do it because everyone has to eat and we can provide a way for them to do it.
Bear insisted that that McDonald's has been changing its menu to healthier fare.
"We’re really doing some phenomenal work to provide people an opportunity not just to provide food that’s indulgent but also food that you feel good about eating," Bear stated. "You can make good healthy choices at McDonald’s."
Jose Oliva, the co-director of the Food Chain Workers Alliance, told the news site that McDonald's has lobbied against paid sick day bills in Chicago.
"The people who lobbied the hardest to defeat paid sick day legislation here in Chicago was McDonald’s," Oliva stated. "The same people who are inviting teachers for McTeacher’s Nights are the same ones who are creating an environment that’s not good for families."
The McDonald’s Corporation did not comment to AlterNet about McTeacher’s Night, but McDonald's spokeswoman Lisa McComb told the Chicago Tribune in October 2015: "The franchisees are independent business owners. If they feel they want to support their community in this way, they're free to do that."
McComb added that some corporate-owned restaurants do McTeacher's Night fundraisers, and have paid out more than $2.5 million for fundraisers from January 2013 to September 2015.
McDonald’s has advertised McTeacher’s Night on its website, but does not do so any longer.
The activists who oppose McTeacher’s Night plan to attend the McDonald’s shareholders meeting at the end of May.