McDonald's Boycott

"When Cesar Chavez Speaks, Only Clowns Listen"

The CWA’s activism efforts against the UFW and Cesar Chavez intensified after the UFW ended its labor contract with the Salinas-based lettuce company, Bruce Church, Inc. While Church agreed to renew the UFW’s contract, even offering pay increases, the UFW left Church because Church refused to amend a security clause that would give the UFW greater control over the workforce. 

MCD Protest 2

The suspension of the contract was precipitated by prior disputes between the UFW and Church that dated back to 1979. Furthermore, in late September, 1984, the UFW convinced McDonald’s Corporation to nationally boycott Church, Inc. lettuce, in an effort to expose the dispute. Additionally, McDonald’s also stopped purchasing lettuce from FreshCo, a sister company of Bruce Church, Inc. 

"Protesting A Boycott"

This was a significant loss for FreshCo as they had a five-year partnership with McDonald’s, which purchased approximately ten percent of FreshCo’s shredded lettuce. The CWA suggested that McDonald’s was bullied into boycotting Church, Inc. because the UFW threatened to protest at McDonald’s locations. Indeed corporate leaders at McDonald’s made their decision one week after three McDonald’s restaurants were picketed for two hours by the UFW. 

McDonald's Boycott

Additionally, the CWA believed that McDonald’s did not want to oppose the UFW since the UFW had achieved national recognition and widespread support.

While the McDonald’s decision was targeted toward Church, the CWA argued “that it is a battle for all of agriculture and that we all—producer, trucker, distributor, grocer, and consumer need to be concerned about such boycotts that exert control over our food distribution” which would deprive consumers free choice, a “degradation of free choice in the marketplace.” 

McDonald's Boycott

McDonald’s representatives initiated a meeting with CWA representatives to explain their reasons for terminating their contract with FreshCo. The McDonald’s representatives declared that the decision was based solely on consideration of quality of product and price. 

McDonald's Boycott

The CWA held strikes outside of local McDonald’s restaurants statewide, claiming that it was a “friendly protest” meant to serve as an “educational demonstration” for the public about the overall impact on food and supply. They also argued that the UFW’s proposals for wage increases were unreasonable and costly to farmers and consumers. 


Also, Church, Inc. had higher wages, $8-10 an hour, while McDonald’s minimum wage was $3.35 an hour.  In 1993, Church won a court hearing against the UFW for “outrageous conduct” during the lettuce boycott.[1] Church was awarded compensation for damages.

McDonald's Boycott<br />

[1] Perry, Tony, “Grower Wins Damage Suit Against UFW,” Los Angeles Times, June 11, 1993,

Related Collections

1. "CWA Activism"

2. "CWA Activism: Church & McDonald's"

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