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A really, really bizarre story here.  Der Spiegel has an investigative story of McDonalds not only employing former Stasi informers, but of also using them for Stasi intimidation practices.

The story, for the article, begins with a McDonalds franchise owner Ulrich Enzinger in the area of Munich.  Enzinger goes to visit one of his restaurants that he owns and something pretty creepy happens

The restaurant is busy on this Monday morning, as Enzinger parks his car in one of the few empty spaces, locks the door and walks toward the entrance. Suddenly a dark sedan pulls up next to him, the passenger window opens and a voice says: "You are barred from the premises. Please leave."

Stasi: Ministerium für Staatssicherheit; Staatssicherheit, literally State Security.  The State Security Apparatus for the German Democratic Republic, GDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik, DDR)

McDonald's Corporation: (NYSE: MCD) is one of the world's largest chain of hamburger fast food restaurants, serving nearly 47 million customers daily.

It seems McDonalds doesn't like how some of their franchises are run in Germany.  Since the number of restaurants are growing at a greater rate per capita than even in the United States, they are now focused not on growth but on corporate efficiency.  Therefore it seems that the McDonalds Corporation is trying to force people out of their 20 year contracts.

This may be a usual way of conducting business.  What is unusual are the people they are hiring and the methods they are employing.

The list of accusations is long and includes manipulation during restaurant inspections, harassment and targeted spying. The company even hired detectives to spy on a Frankfurt franchisee it didn't like, and one case is even under investigation by the public prosecutor's office in Munich.

McDonalds' new weapon: Stasi informers and thugs

Meet Bernd R., corporate hack and spy for McDonalds Germany (due to privacy laws, last names of suspects cannot be used in the press before a conviction in court).

R. had some unusual experiences under his belt. As a cook in the National People's Army of communist East Germany in 1980, he spied on fellow soldiers who had been stealing preserved fruit from the regiment inventories. Officials at the Ministry for State Security (Stasi), East Germany's secret police, were so impressed by the soldier that they recruited him as an informer. His code word for establishing contact with the Stasi was "Gulaschkanone," German for field kitchen). "Intellectually speaking," his managing officer commented, R. was qualified to "complete operational tasks."

"Roland," as he was also known, then started his career -- first as an employee in the central council of the Free German Youth (FDJ), East Germany's official youth organization, and later as a restaurant manager for one of the main organs of the East German regime. He had plenty to report during the latter assignment. "The candidate said, without hesitation, that he intended to continue supporting the MfS (Ministry of State Security)," one Stasi report stated. From then on, "Roland" reported internal information from the waiters working in the government restaurant. He met with his managing officer for the last time on Nov. 23, 1989, two weeks after the opening of the Berlin Wall.

"Roland" found new masters: the corporate capitalists at McDonalds Corporation.  Like corporations in the US (Blackwater/Xe) hiring former special operations personnel and ever increasingly former CIA personnel (not only as military mercenaries but also for corporate espionage, see CIA moonlights in corporate world) It seems McDonalds is also getting in on the US business game of hiring ex-spooks and operators to enforce corporate policy.

McDonald's had also been made aware of R.'s past as an informer after it received an anonymous letter. According to a McDonald's spokesman, the company then gained access to the official files, with R.'s permission, and had attorneys review them. They apparently concluded that his Stasi past didn't pose a problem.

It appears that R. attended to associates who had fallen out of favor at company headquarters in Germany. One of them was Ulrich Enzinger, who was operating five restaurants at the time. Business was booming, and he was sending millions in franchise fees to the Munich offices every year. Nevertheless, he was apparently a thorn in the side of the McDonald's family of restaurants.

The methods R. uses are text-book cloak and dagger stuff.  The stuff that made John Le Carre's books real and, for the reader, fun.  R. decides to infiltrate and gather intelligence on Enzinger through his long-time and self-professed most trusted manager: oh, and a woman, of course - no spy plot would be complete without the romantic element.

R. apparently paid personal attention to one of Enzinger's restaurant managers. The former Stasi informer used a McDonald's cruise in the western Mediterranean to get to know the woman. The company had booked a cruise with AIDA, a German cruise line, to reward deserving restaurant and district managers for their performance. For R., it was apparently a good opportunity to develop a closer relationship with Enzinger's restaurant manager.

R. apparently met with the woman several times after the cruise. Enzinger suspected nothing at first and continued to rely heavily on the woman, who was his most important employee. "I trusted her implicitly," he says today. "We had no secrets when it came to business matters."

Oct. 27, 2006, Enzinger is called to corporate HQ and has a meeting.  Lo and Behold, there is R. with a whole bunch of dirt (trumped up from manipulated inspections and "other sources").  He is now going to lose his business: i.e. forced to sell them.

The man sitting on the other side of the desk was R., who, as Enzinger recalls, wasted no time in getting to the point. The results of the inspections, R. said, were clear enough, and they constituted violations of the franchise agreement...

...Enzinger was perplexed. He had in fact referred to R. as management's watchdog, but it was in a private conversation with the female restaurant manager. "These are Stasi methods, I thought to myself at the time,"

Not just Enzinger, but also entrepreneur  Matthias Koerber

Andrea Kappel, who worked as a manager in the Bad Kissingen restaurant, had apparently been approached on Dec. 16, 2008 to help provide McDonald's information it needed to get rid of her boss. A field consultant from R.'s team had invited Kappel to a meeting in a café, supposedly to discuss her career opportunities at McDonald's. According to Kappel, however, the inspector was only interested in discussing invoices, work schedules and Koerber's legal troubles. "They wanted me to spy on my boss," she says. But she refused, grabbed her purse and abruptly left the café.

Koerber was not to take it lying down, he in turn video-taped inspections.  But Kappel was also feeling the heat developed in Cold War spy doctrine.

On Jan. 15, 2009, the field consultant and a coworker spent an entire day in the Bad Kissingen restaurant. During the course of the day, the inspectors objected to one employee's tattoos and another worker's shoes, and complained that one worker was too well dressed while another looked too unkempt. As they were leaving, they told Kappel, the restaurant manager, that she ought to be demoted to shift manager, because she was "apparently not up to the requirements."

McDonalds took Koeber to court, trying to instigate injunctions against whatever evidence he may have taped in his defense by exploiting German privacy law.

McDonald's responded by seeking a court order to prohibit him from videotaping, because it was allegedly an "infringement of personal rights." Koerber's contract with McDonald's has since been terminated without notice.

As for the Stasi Informer Bernd R.?  Well, it looks like he is making out pretty well in the corporation

While Koerber continues to fight for his restaurants, Bernd R., the manager of the McDonald's southern German market, no longer works in inspections. He now operates three thriving restaurants in Bavaria that the company had offered to him.

There are a few companies that are the quintessential face of America and americana.  Among those are Walt Disney, Coca Cola, Pepsi, and ... McDonalds.  Meteor Blades' recent diary on Kissinger and the latest piece of evidence of his involvement in Operation Condor is relevant.  Because it is thought that the CEO of Pepsi Cola called his old corporate attorney Richard Milhous Nixon, concerned about copper in South America.  A month later was American support for Operation Condor.

This is only one of the companies that is the face of America.

Most of us can add Walt Disney to the list of evil corporations and well as WalMart.  But I am not sure if WalMart has achieved American icon status yet.

I think we can all agree that McDonalds does promote the face of American culture, whether you hate it or not.

Now, that face of American culture and capitalism is hiring former totalitarian communist Stasi thugs to force out entrepreneurs that they don't like.  This is what the rest of the world sees as an image of America.  I would think it would give US citizens a cause for alarm.  No it is not as big an event like an aggressive US war in the middle east, but it is the slow trickle of what is "American" and what is the face of the US to the world that solidifies a deeper impression of the US.  That impression is not very good.

It gives a whole new perception of loading up the car with the kids to go get Happy Meals

"We're all living in America: Coca Cola ... sometimes war!"

Originally posted to Jeffersonian Democrat on Tue Apr 13, 2010 at 06:24 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  WTF?? Maybe they can catch the Hamburglar (12+ / 0-)

    It's early, but I think this diary wins the prize for most bizarre story of the day. This will be a public relations nightmare for McDonalds if the MSM picks up on it and it drags on.

    Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear. ~William E. Gladstone, 1866

    by absdoggy on Tue Apr 13, 2010 at 06:33:07 AM PDT

  •  When in Rome... (7+ / 0-)

    What McD's is doing, is taking advantage of a quirk in the local culture.

    East Germany was downright infested with Stasi spies.  Everyone spied on everyone else relentlessly.  It was in the culture in the same way that competition is in American culture.  

    So of course McD's is going to make use of it!

    Corporations are like clinical sociopaths: they have no capacity for human feelings or human values, they are like dinosaurs in the sense of being very large objects with reptilian brains running reptile-level programs to maximize profit and maximize growth: essentially, eat, compete, and reproduce.  

    So this should not surprise us.

    However it should be used as part of our overall campaign to deny corporations the rights of "personhood" beyond being able to buy, own, and sell property in their own names, and sue and be sued in their own names.

    •  Hello? Neither Munich, Frankfurt,or Bad Kissingen (5+ / 0-)

      are in the former East German States. Your premise makes no sense. Also, to insinuate that spying on one another is in the cultural DNA of everyone  living in the Neuen Bundesländers is rather insulting to a generation that has grown up without the Iron Curtain and Berlin Wall. Read a newspaper, dude.

      •  From a corporate culture standpoint, it may make (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        G2geek, Jeffersonian Democrat

        sense, though.

        Multinationals and franchises typically adapt with the local culture (and corruptions), IMHO: in this case, some bad old influences found a vehicle for using their skills to get ahead in direct business - even branching out from their former sphere of influence to use those "skills" in somewhat nearby locales.

        "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

        by wader on Tue Apr 13, 2010 at 07:22:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  This is not local culture. (4+ / 0-)

          Your uneducated and bigoted is unwanted and unwarranted.  Go educate yourself by reading some impartial media.  Oh, sorry, I forgot, you can't do that, you are american.

          See how it feels?

          Best Wishes, Demena Left/Right: -8.38; Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.36

          by Demena on Tue Apr 13, 2010 at 07:31:12 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Stasi are more local to Germany today (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Jeffersonian Democrat

            than to other regions, though - that's about as "local" as we may need to consider here and encompasses the context of my prior statement:

            To whit:

            . . .

            From "Monitor," Westdeutscher Rundfunk, Television Broadcast of 2 July 2009:


            Victims of the Stasi have learned that a large number of henchmen of the former East German dictatorship underwent a smooth transition into becoming "friends and helpers of democracy." Klaus Schroeder, a professor at the Freie Universitaet Berlin and an expert in the former East German communist party, says, "Former Stasi officers were able to become ‘friends of democracy’ because West German officials were led to believe that normal criminal investigations had been carried out in communist East Germany just as they were anywhere else – which of course is complete nonsense. These people (i.e., former East German secret police officers now working for the German police) prepared court cases against political dissidents. They staged trials, and they engineered the way the way those trials played out. The courts in East Germany were, so to speak, nothing more than a tool of the Stasi, the secret police. We forget that the Stasi had a function that was completely different from that of a domestic police or intelligence service in a democratic country."

            "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

            by wader on Tue Apr 13, 2010 at 08:09:15 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I do wish to make sure it is understood (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              nargel, wader, ivorybill

              that my criticism is towards McDonalds rather than Stasi henchmen.

              My reasoning is thus - the DDR and its organs including Stasi have been thoroughly discredited.  There is no question in that.

              McDonalds, on the other hand, enjoys a non-discredited family friendly image yet employs people from a thoroughly (as previously agreed to standard) institution to enforce certain corporate matters.

              99.999 percent of people buying Happy Meals for their kids are unaware of this.  That is excepting those who read this diary, read the Der Spiegel article, or are personally involved in the litigation here in Germany.

              That's why I wanted to shine a light on McDonalds; we already know the horrors of Stasi, we don't yet know the scummy side of corporations hiring these very same people who gained their experience in totalitarian secret police organizations.

              "Where they burn books, they will ultimately also burn people." - Heinrich Heine, Almansor, 1821

              by Jeffersonian Democrat on Tue Apr 13, 2010 at 08:19:31 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I hoped my original comment above (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Jeffersonian Democrat

                supported that perspective you've offered, admittedly.

                Just wanted to clarify the context for my opinion relative to the direct response given.

                "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

                by wader on Tue Apr 13, 2010 at 08:29:14 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  It did, no worries (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  I just wanted to clarify in case there were any questions.

                  Family friendly McDonalds is the target here, not the already discredited organizations.  McDonalds taints their image with hiring people from these organizations and those who use those organization's methods to further corporate objectives.

                  "Where they burn books, they will ultimately also burn people." - Heinrich Heine, Almansor, 1821

                  by Jeffersonian Democrat on Tue Apr 13, 2010 at 08:51:54 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

              •  So glad I read this diary (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Jeffersonian Democrat

                You write interesting stuff, JD.  I'm not big on German politics or history, but you are right - this is kind of an amazing story for the superimposition of the deeply creepy Stasi legacy with the Hamburgler and Ronald McDonald and the whole family ambience McDonald's tries to cultivate.  Fascinating read.

                McDonald's HQ is near where I live in Chicago, and the landscaping is amazing - the place looks like a memorial park for millions and millions of cattle.  Very creepy enterprise indeed.  

                "Die Stimme der Vernuft ist leise." (The voice of reason is soft)

                by ivorybill on Tue Apr 13, 2010 at 09:29:05 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  Add in the multinational nature of the (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Jeffersonian Democrat

                corporation and you get a corporate culture with no natural immunity to (if not perhaps affinity for) the local predators and their habits.  They are now offering a wider range with no existing natural enemies.  Think rabbits with fangs in Australia.

                Torture is for the weak. After all, it is just extended wheedling.

                by nargel on Tue Apr 13, 2010 at 10:30:03 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

      •  when the files were opened.... (5+ / 0-)

        .... about who was spying on who, it turned out that the number of people who were informants of one kind or another was staggering, to the point where there was an issue raised about whether or not to release all the names because it might lead to neighbor-feuds.  

        That's a pretty good definition of pervasive.

        Yeah "everyone" is hyperbole.  But enough of it was going on to lead to that issue being raised about pervasiveness and retaliation.

        No doubt the people who were doing the informant gig diffused across the border like molecules, when the border was opened, just as any other group of people diffuses across newly-opened borders.  Diffusion is a property of physical objects in 4space, and last time I checked, humans were still physical.  

        If this was not a local phenomenon, we'll hear about it happening in other countries that did not have a pervasive secret police system.  

        But I suspect what we'll hear instead is that McD's like any other corporation, made use of whatever factors were available in the local cultures in each country in which it operates.  In the US they probably make use of lawyers and lawyer-letters, because we're infested with lawyers.  

        After we get single-payer health coverage, they will probably make use of all the newly-unemployed vampires from the private health insurance companies that get put out of business, and then we will hear terms such as "rescission" being applied to McDonald's franchises.  

        Same as it ever was

        same as it ever was...

  • (5+ / 0-)

    There is a new web site up devoted to reporting on the corporate and labor abuses of McDonalds worldwide -

    I believe it is sponsored by IUF.

    •  McJobs statement (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Jeffersonian Democrat is a joint venture between the IUF and LabourStart to provide a forum for McDonalds workers all over the world to share their experiences of working in the fast food chain.

      The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) is an international federation of trade unions representing workers employed in
         * agriculture and plantations
         * the preparation and manufacture of food and beverages
         * hotels, restaurants and catering services
         * all stages of tobacco processing
      The IUF is currently composed of 336 trade unions in 120 countries representing a combined membership of over 12 million workers.It is based in Geneva, Switzerland.

      Mikä Maailmaa Liikuttaa radio programme asking what moves our world.

      by Pohjola on Tue Apr 13, 2010 at 08:37:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  next up: hamburger helper arrested!!! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wader, Jeffersonian Democrat

    Never walk into a public restroom while breathing through your mouth.

    by quityurkidding on Tue Apr 13, 2010 at 07:17:59 AM PDT

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