Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!

McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank

September 3, 2017
4 min read


Michael CalderbankMichael Calderbank Red Pepper co-editor and parliamentary researcher for trade unions. @Calderbank


  share     tweet  

Multinational corporations don’t come much powerful than McDonald’s, which is one of the world’s biggest employers. But pay and conditions vary considerably across the globe. Workers at McDonald’s in Denmark, for example, are paid over $20 an hour, thanks to a collective bargaining agreement reached because the company has to recognise a trade union. McDonald’s remains a commercially viable operation in Denmark, but not at the expense of denying their workers a decent living wage.

As we have reported over the past few years, a global fightback has taken place by fast food workers getting organised to demand a decent living wage and the right to union recognition.

The Fight for $15, backed by the SEIU union in the US, has already won significant pay rises for over 22 million workers. Their campaign marked by a determined and militant form of mass direct action, linking up workers with community groups in a fight for social justice.

In New Zealand, too, the UNITE union has successfully forced through the abolition of zero-hours contracts.

Until now, McDonald’s UK has not seen a single instance of strike action against its employment practices. Not coincidentally, pay often remains signficantly below £10 an hour, and the company has yet to make good on its promise to allow all its workers the chance to move off zero-hours contracts onto fixed hours. Significantly, too, the lack of a recognised trade union means that McDonald’s staff often feel bullied and intimidated by management, with no real recourse for their grievances.

Now, finally, staff at two stores – in Cambridge and Crayford – have had enough. Through their union, the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), they balloted for strike action and received an overwhelming 95.7 per cent vote in favour. The workers are going on strike this Monday, 4 September, and have already received the support of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell MP and other senior Labour Party and trade union figures and campaign groups.

Shen Batmaz, a McDonald’s worker at the Crayford store, said: “We can’t afford not to take action. We have decided to strike because of the bullying we have faced and we know McDonald’s workers face every single day all around the world.

“We have come together, and are ready to fight to have the money we need to live and to have respect in our job. We are ready to make history: McDonald’s, the second largest employer in the world, sets the global standard for how companies treat their workers; when we win it will be a victory for all low-paid workers everywhere.”

Ian Hodson, president of BFAWU, said: “For the first time in UK history, McDonald’s workers and supporters of our movement will step out from the dark shadow of impoverishment cast by Ronald McDonald’s golden arches, and call for the rights they are entitled to – a £10 an hour minimum wage, secure employment contracts, and the recognition of their right to join a trade union.

“For far too long, McDonald’s have taken advantage of its workers, taken away their voice, and taken away their freedoms. But this abhorrent behaviour can go on no longer – and it won’t. Their facing a global movement – whether it’s here in the UK, the US, Brazil, New Zealand – you name it. Workers are standing up.”

For more information on how to support the #McStrike go to Fast Food Rights.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

Michael CalderbankMichael Calderbank Red Pepper co-editor and parliamentary researcher for trade unions. @Calderbank


Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism

Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists

Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson

As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win

The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution

Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.

‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition

#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny

Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke

The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana

Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth

Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company

You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild

Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University

This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback

Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein

Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up

Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement

‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic

Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden

There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright

Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones

‘Your credit score is not sufficient to enter this location’: the risks of the ‘smart city’
Jathan Sadowski explains techno-political trends of exclusion and enforcement in our cities, and how to overcome this new type of digital oppression

Why I’m standing with pregnant women and resisting NHS passport checks
Dr Joanna Dobbin says the government is making migrant women afraid to seek healthcare, increasing their chances of complications or even death

‘Committees in Defence of the Referendum’: update from Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte on developments as the Catalan people resist the Spanish state's crackdown on their independence referendum

The rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people are not guaranteed – we must continue to fight for them
Kennedy Walker looks at the growth in hate attacks at a time when the Tory government is being propped up by homophobes