In the birthplace of the bacon sundae, Burger King is facing blockage over its decision to merge with a Canadian coffee-and-donut chain and relocate north of the border.
A group of fryolator-loving activists hand-delivered more than 70,000 signed petitions to Burger King’s Miami corporate offices on Thursday, urging the fast-food chain to keep its new combined company’s headquarters in the United States.
Burger King last month announced a merger with Canada's Tim Hortons, making it the world’s third-largest fast-food chain. But the deal has triggered a junior whopper of a controversy from some American consumers and politicians over whether the fast-food chain is moving to Canada to lower its taxes. Critics have slammed the Burger King deal as unpatriotic for an American company — even one that claims to be royalty.
Carlos Pereira, a Miami community organizer and candidate for the Florida state legislature in the district that is home to Burger King’s current headquarters, handed over the petitions to a company official.
"This company is one of the pillars of the United States economy, and it is unconscionable for them to evade paying taxes of a country they have called home for so long," Pereira said. "We don't know how a move like this could affect jobs both across the nation and locally."
Democracy for America's Carlos Pereira and Burger King's Andrea Tejada shake on a deal to keep the company in Miami, and to continue paying national, state, and local taxes. Pereira delivered over 72,000 petitions asking the corporation to stay in the U.S. Photo: Daniel Rivero
Andrea Tejada, Burger King’s director of community affairs, assured the fast-food demonstrators that Burger King will continue to operate out of Miami under the merger.
"Burger King is Miami," she told reporters. "Burger King will stay in Miami, just like my family will."
Burger King started as a small, local burger stand called 'Insta-Burger King' in the 1950s before growing into to a global chain with more than 14,000 franchises.
Miamians still feel an attachment to their hometown burger joint. Nearly half of those who signed the petitions asking Burger King to stay are Miami-area residents, Pereira said.
Pereira asked Tejada to promise on-the-record that the company would not move from Miami or stop paying federal, state, or local taxes. After a brief hesitation, Tejada agreed and the two shook hands. (Have it your way.)
"[Burger King] will continue paying taxes in the same way we have always done," Tejada told Fusion, before being whisked back into the building by Burger King staff and security.
So was the promise and a handshake binding? Probably not.
It was, however, an indication that Burger King feels the mounting pressure —like that from a clogged artery — to respond to the public uproar.
Earlier this year, Walgreens abandoned an attempt to move its headquarters from Illinois to Switzerland after it acquired a European company. The company was ultimately forced to back down from the proposal after Illinois politicians vocally opposed the move.
On Wednesday, Bloomberg reported that Burger King is putting its customer loyalty on the line with the proposed move, as public perception of the chain has dipped since the announcement of the merger.
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.