CHICAGO — Two former McDonald’s employees have for months failed to cooperate with a National Labor Relations Board investigation into whether or not the fast food giant illegally surveilled employees involved in the “Fight For $15” campaign, according to recently filed federal court records.

Last week, the NLRB asked a federal judge in Chicago to enforce two subpoenas sent last March to Kristen Stewart-Gibbs and Carsten Frank, former members of McDonald’s Global Intelligence Team.

The NLRB said the subpoenas were issued as part of the agency’s investigation into allegations that McDonald’s “has used social media, security, intelligence gathering, and/or other modalities to surveil employees who have been engaged in the Fight For $15 Campaign,” according to recent court filings.

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The NLRB investigation was spurred by a February 2021 story by Vice, which, citing internal documents and sources, reported that McDonald’s “has a goal of collecting ‘strategic intelligence’ on ‘counter-parties’ as well as ‘political intelligence on difficult political landscapes in complex markets that could cause significant business disruption and impact returns on investment.’” 

An attorney representing the NLRB wrote that the agency “properly issued subpoenas within its authority in furtherance of its legitimate investigation of whether McDonald’s USA, LLC (“McDonald’s”) has engaged in surveillance of its employees in violation of Section 7 of the [National Labor Relations] Act.”

“Respondents Stewart-Gibbs and Frank have no legitimate defense for their respective failures to obey the subpoenas issued to them,” the attorney continued. “Although entitled to do so, neither challenged the subpoenas issued to them through the available administrative procedures.”

A representative for McDonald’s didn’t respond to a request for comment, and efforts to reach Stewart-Gibbs and Frank were not successful.

Otha Smith, a Milwaukee McDonald’s employee and leader in the Fight For $15 campaign, said in an emailed statement:

“What is McDonald’s trying to hide? Instead of heeding our demand for $15/hr and a voice on the job, first McDonald’s apparently launched an operation to spy on us and now they’re fighting in court to keep it secret. While McDonald’s spends millions on corporate lawyers, we’ll be in the streets demanding a living wage of at least $15/hr and fighting to fix the broken labor laws that have allowed the company to surveil us for nearly a decade without facing consequences.” 

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