Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
Fast food is a global industry that generates billions in profits for the shareholders of multinational corporations, but for the workers, the industry often means low pay, zero hours contracts and no union rights at work. Now, though, the backlash has begun, with strikes sweeping cities across the USA and set to spread across the globe, as unions internationally get ready for an international day of action. Union activists from across the world made their preparations at a recent event in New York.
‘It may be an overused word, but we may be attending a truly historic meeting today, since it’s about building an international movement.’ Those were the words used by Ron Oswald, general secretary of the global union federation IUF, opening its conference on fast food which included presentations from unions across the world that are organising workers in the industry. IUF – its full name is the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations – has 396 affiliated organisations in 126 countries, representing a combined membership of 12 million workers. One thing that was clear was that across the world, direct action had resulted in improvements for workers.
The conference was hosted by the US-based Service Employees International Union, which has been supporting the ‘Fight for 15’ campaign (for a $15 an hour living wage) and is behind the strikes that have taken place in fast food outlets in the US. Two workers spoke about why they had got involved in the campaign, explaining that as young women they felt it was the only way they could put food on the table and they were sick of having to chose between paying the rent or turning the heating on. When asked what message they would give to other young workers, they commented that if you want to stop working in poverty then it’s the union that’s going to work to end it.
Part of the point of the conference was to create a worldwide campaign to co-ordinate action against global companies that make billions but pay as little as they can and offer as little as they can get away with. Workshops discussed networks and co-ordination to improve pay and end the precariousness of the employment offered by these hugely profitable companies. People are sick of being exploited and what this conference showed is that workers have had enough.
In light of the growing momentum and strength of feeling among those working in the fast-food industry, a global day of action has been arranged for 15 May – this Thursday. The Bakers, Food and Allied Workers’ Union (BFAWU) is pleased to be standing alongside other organisations across the globe in action to end exploitation and low pay in the fast food industry.
On 15 May, we will be organising events in towns and cities up and down the country to make the general public aware of the exploitation taking place on their high streets. We will be demanding better pay, better conditions and dignity in the workplace. After all, these are not just issues for fast food workers but in workplaces everywhere.
Join the campaign for Fast Food Rights. Join John McDonnell MP and Fast Food Rights campaigners at the picket of McDonald’s on Whitehall (London SW1) – Thursday May 15, 4pm.
The collapse of Carillion is only one small part of a larger story of decades of economic mismanagement
Laura McDonald writes that universities should not just be finishing schools for the wealthy or disciplinary institutions churning out docile workers.
A floundering alliance of Blairites is trying to reinvent itself for a Corbynite age. By Tom Costello.
Marienna Pope-Weidemann explains why decades of occupation and oppression have led some people to call Israel an apartheid state.
International Women's Day is set to be marked by strikes from "paid work in offices and factories, or unpaid domestic work in homes, communities and bedrooms."
Laurie Laybourn-Langton writes that measuring the economy is political - and economic measurement dominates politics.
David Scott argues that our prison system represents a human rights disaster, and reformist solutions can't tackle the root problems.
A deeper engagement with culture can strengthen our democracy, taking political projects beyond electoral impact and festival memes into a whole new world of radical, lasting change.
Ruth Tanner writes that revelations about Oxfam's behaviour in Haiti are shocking, but not surprising.
The actions of Oxfam officials are horrendous - but gutting foreign aid funding just puts more people at risk, writes Daniel Gibson.
Stormzy, Grenfell and what it means to be a ‘threat’
The artist is giving a vital platform to a new generation of voices pointing out the deep hypocrisy in which crimes get punished and which get rewarded, write Remi Joseph-Salisbury and Laura Connelly
For All, By All
The latest issue of Red Pepper asks - how do we invite, support and nurture greater public participation so that our cultural capabilities are empowered beyond the crushing logic of market fundamentalism?
‘We are hungry in three languages’: The forgotten promise of the Bosnian Spring
Ruth Tanner looks back at a wave of protests which swept through Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2014.
It’s time for a cultural renewal of the left
Andrew Dolan writes that we need to integrate art, music, films and poetry into our movement, creating spaces where political ideas are given further room to breathe.
Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.
Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani
Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week
A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes