McDonald's just racked up a most unlikely defender: Oscar-nominated actor, writer, director and full-time provocateur James Franco.
In a new op-ed for the Washington Post entitled “McDonald's was there for me when no one else was” (!), the “Interview” star waxes poetic about the beleaguered (if that's a word you can use to describe a multi-billion dollar corporation), allegedly union-busting fast-food chain, which employed him as an 18-year-old UCLA dropout for three months before he booked a national Pizza Hut commercial.
“I was treated fairly well at McDonald”s. If anything, they cut me slack,” he writes. “And, just like their food, the job was more available there than anywhere else. When I was hungry for work, they fed the need. I still love the simplicity of the McDonald”s hamburger and its salty fries. After reading 'Fast Food Nation,' it”s hard for me to trust the grade of the meat. But maybe once a year, while on a road trip or out in the middle of nowhere for a movie, I”ll stop by a McDonald”s and get a simple cheeseburger: light, and airy, and satisfying.”
Oh, brother. Why do you do it to us, James?
“Franco, who seems to forget that being a drop-out from an elite university set him apart from most hourly workers at McDonald's, goes onto reminisce about his rosy experience: Mixing it up with co-workers and even practicing funny accents,” snarks Mother Jones contributor Inae Oh, whose piece was titled — fittingly enough — “You're Really Going to Hate James Franco's Offensive Nostalgia Trip to McDonald's.”
CNN Money's Chris Isidore added more context to the point raised by Oh, writing: “Advocates fighting for better wages and working conditions at McDonald's argue that most fast-food wrokers are not in fact teenagers and struggling actors…Nearly 40% of fast food workers are 25 or older, while 30% are teenagers, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Most make more than the federal minimum wage, but 70% are making $10.09 an hour or less.”
Franco's op-ed comes at a prickly time for McDonald's and other fast-food restaurants, which have been the subject of recent protests by workers demanding wage increases and union rights. McDonald's responded by pledging to raise their starting wages by $1 an hour — but only for those working at non-franchised restaurants (or about 80% of all McDonald's locations). The company subsequently announced plans to, yes, “refranchise” another 3,500 restaurants as part of a restructuring plan, thereby allowing them to skirt those pay raises for a larger percentage of the company's employees. By the by? James supports this!
“I want the [restructuring] strategy to work,” he writes. “All I know is that when I needed McDonald”s, McDonald”s was there for me. When no one else was.”
In light of all this, it's understandable that folks would take umbrage with Franco's piece. Here's a sampling of responses on Twitter:
– Spencer Woodman (@spencerwoodman) May 7, 2015
The world would have been better off if James Franco had stayed at McDonald's. http://t.co/eRslGNjb0n
– Tim Shorrock (@TimothyS) May 7, 2015
James Franco, in worst op-ed ever written, says go easy on McDonald's cos he worked there for 3 mths and it was OK: http://t.co/LAlfwMPOc0
– Jon Swaine (@jonswaine) May 7, 2015
– Brett Collett (@brettacollett) May 7, 2015
– 32BJ SEIU (@32BJ_SEIU) May 7, 2015