Thursday, May 24, 2007

McDonald's: Class Struggle and the Battle of Ideas

If anyone ever doubted there was an ideological struggle, a battle of ideas afoot in the world today, a story in this morning's news might give them reason for pause. McDonalds's corporation apparently has launched a new campaign directed at the folks who produce the Oxford dictionary to get them to change the definition of the word McJob.

"McJob" is defined as a low-paying menial job with no opportunities. In the minds of the corporate think modifiers, there is an unfair and patently wrong meaning attached to the dignified and opportunity filled enterprise brimming experience that flipping burgers at McDonalds actually is. That the burger and fry transnational is a union busting, minimum wage paying, and no benefits providing enterprise is apparently lost on company executives.

McDonald's concern apparently run's deep, as this is not the first time they have challenged the definition of McJob. In 2003 they attempted to get Merriam-Webster to do the same thing and even threatened to sue, because McJob is similar to MCJOBS, a training program for the disabled and mentally challenged.

Then according to a CNN story, McDonald's spokespersons said the definition was a "slap in the face" to the 12 million employees who work in the restaurant industry. It seems this face slapping has been occurring for about 15 years when dictionaries first began using the term. McJob is similarly defined by Webster's, American Heritage dictionary and Oxford according to the 2003 CNN report. At that time Merriam-Webster decided to stand firm. CNN reported:

"For more that 17 years 'McJob' has been used as we are defining it in a broad range of publications," the company said, citing everything from The New York Times and Rolling Stone to newspapers in South Africa and Australia.

The widespread common usage and definition of McJob is a class phenomenon and is good example of how working-class life and experience influences mass consciousness. Clearly this is no small matter as McDonald's campaign suggests. Why do they care? Why does McJob leave a bad taste in big business's mouth? Concern for employee morale? Hey, give them a raise. Let a union be formed. No, the problem is brand name and image: both mean money, and the struggle over it is a matter of corporate profits. The class struggle and the battle of ideas: you couldn't get a better example of it.

--joe sims

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