Everyone has witnessed demonstrations involving young people targeting the fast food chain McDonald’s; blocking doors and/or breaking glass windows. The company, one of the most recognized and profitable global enterprises has placed itself as an icon of globalization and inequality, and has got used to being the target of campaigns from groups outside it.
That may be starting to change, argues Frances Michaels.
For the first time in Britain, McDonald’s employees are going on strike on Monday September 4 (US Labor Day) in 2 of the company’s restaurants: Cambridge and Crayford in South East London. The workers are demanding a £10 hourly wage, guaranteed hour contracts and formal union recognition.
Workers from these two outlets have been supported by their union BFAWU and activists from the Fight for $15 campaign in the US and also from New Zealand’s Unite Union who came to Britain in order to help organize the workers and assist in the process that is leading to the strike next week.
McDonald’s UK has pre-tax profits above £250m, and the global company has last year distributed over $2billion to shareholders and the company’s CEO got a pay package above £11.2m – more than £5600 per hour, on a 40 hours working week!.
While this is happening Mcdonald’s is paying its staff just above the legal minimum wage in their age bands, that can go as low as £4.75 to workers under 18 and £5.60 to workers under 20, which are a significant part of their workforce.
McDonald’s is also being investigated by the EU for operating a complex tax avoidance scheme.
Workers also report poor working conditions: extremely hot environments and even being harassed by managers to return to work after calling in sick.
These strikes form part of an increasing movement of workers facing similar conditions, McDonald’s certainly is not the only company with these practices built into their business model, workers across the hospitality, cleaning and security sectors face similar iniquities.
Last year The US Fight for $15 campaign has achieved success with California and New York states committing to $15 minimum wage from 2022, and is now developing actions in other 300 cities aiming for a minimum of $15 hourly wage for all workers in the US. Labor Day will be an occassion for stepping up the campaign. Also last year, the New Zealand Unite union played a pivotal role in a campaign that ended up with parliament unanimously passing a law banning zero-hour contracts.
The upcoming strike at McDonalds is also the first demanding what are clearly Corbyn policies, the Labour leader has campaigned for a £10 minimum wage and the scrapping of zero-hour contracts since his election. He emblazoned them as pledges in the Labour manifesto for the last General election.
Both Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonell have visited McDonald’s workers in Cambridge and Crayford and offered support to their cause and will be speaking at the rally at Parliament Square on Monday.
McDonald’s has dismissed this strike by saying that its only happening in two of the chain’s many restaurants and only 0.01% of its workers are involved. But this may prove to be a serious misjudgement.
The demands of its workers will be in tune with the majority of workers in Britain and particularly in their sector. This strike will certainly have the sympathy of the majority of the population and has the potential to ignite similar protests in hospitality and other similar sectors who will now see they too can organize.
Actions in support of McDonald’s strikers taking place on September 4 include:
Monday 4 September, workers at the Cambridge site will picket from 6 – 7am, while workers at the Crayford site will picket from 6 – 7.30am.
Main Rally, Parliament 10.30am
speakers include Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell
Other rallies as follows:
McDonald’s @ King’s Cross / Pentonville Road
Come along to show some solidarity, to inform workers, customers and passers-bys about the strike.
Join the Facebook page for the event HERE
5pm, McDonald’s Manchester
Picadilly Gardens Mcdonalds, M1 1LY Manchester
Join the Facebook page HERE
5 PM – 6 PM, McDonalds Unit 4 Cherry Street
Temple Row, Birmingham, B2 5AL
Join the Facebook page HERE
Gleadless Valley branch of Heeley (Sheffield) CLP and Sheffield Needs a Pay Rise campaign are organising solidarity action for 4 September at McDonald’s branch in Heeley constituency, probably 2 stints one lunchtime and one tea time. See details HERE
Join the Liverpool #McSolidarity protest, 4-6pm outside the McDonalds on Lord Street in the city centre (82/86 Lord St, Liverpool L2 1TL). Join the Facebook page HERE
6pm at the McDonald’s on Western Road and on London Road
12 – 2PM outside McDonald’s in the town centre in Bank Hey St FY1 4PX
12pm McDonalds, the Centre MK, 52-56 Midsummer Blvd
Monday 4 September, Midday – 2pm, outside McDonald’s
22/24 Old Market, Halifax HX1 1TN
Clacton on Sea
MONDAY 4th September 12.00 until 13.00 McDonald’s Clacton Town Center. Leafleting in Support of the McDonalds workers Strike.BFAWU bakers’ union has now named Monday 4 September as the first strike day.