Very often, a company’s relationship with its stakeholders defines its ethical values. McDonald’s, despite its global success, remains the target of a vitriolic public backlash owing to what many perceive as bad business ethics in its relationships with employees and other stakeholders.
This bad business ethics example by McDonald's is what is known as the "McDonald's Legislation" in popular parlance. In 1972, Ray Kroc, the company’s founder made a rare donation of $250,000 to Nixon's reelection campaign and in return got a favorable legislation that allowed companies such as McDonald's to pay teenage employees 20 percent less than federal minimum wages. Most observers consider this a typical case of corporate influence on lawmakers to enact legislation that serve their selfish ends and harm society.
McDonald’s also doesn't allow employees to unionize, and in one instance where workers at St. Hubert Quebec did form a union, the company closed down the unit promptly.
The McLibel case ranks as McDonald’s most disastrous cases of bad business ethics and spawned tons of negative publicity. Between 1986 and 1990, activists of London Greenpeace distributed pamphlets with the title “What's Wrong with McDonald's? Everything They Don't Want You to Know" and the wordings “McDollars, McGreedy, McCancer, McMurder, McProfits, McGarbage," alleging that McDonald's promoted Third World poverty, sold unhealthy food, exploited workers and children, tortured animals, and destroyed the Amazon rain forest. McDonald's sued the group for libel. The court, however, held McDonald’s guilty of exploiting children through advertising tactics, serving dangerously unhealthy food, paying workers low wages, indulging in union busting activities worldwide, and ignoring animal cruelty perpetrated by its suppliers.