McDonald’s workers from the US brought the spirit of their fight for $15 an hour to Britain yesterday, Wednesday, with a noisy protest in central London.
The three workers and some 70 supporters of the Fast Food Rights campaign protested outside a McDonald’s on Whitehall.
They were joined by fast food workers from Glasgow and Cambridge to demand that McDonald’s pays its workers a minimum wage of £10 an hour, and concedes the right to a union.
Fast Food campaigners in the US and Britain are both fighting for better pay and working conditions.
McDonald’s worker Latoya from Kansas City, Missouri, told Socialist Worker, “It’s all about solidarity with my brothers and sisters. They need to pay us a liveable wage. We need to make McDonald’s pay £10 in Britain and give us $15. We’re all worth more.”
The US workers brought a flavour of the strikes, walkouts and protests in hundreds of cities across the US have already won pay rises for workers. They led chants of “We work, we sweat – put £10 on our cheque” and, “If we can’t get it – shut it down!”
One worker from Boston told the protesters, “They’re taking the food out of your children’s mouths by not giving you £10 and by not giving us $15.
“So we stand up and fight back as hard as we possibly can.”
Fast food workers from the Bfawu union in Glasgow added to the atmosphere dressed as Ronald McDonald. They also sang David Bowie songs with adapted song lyrics.
To the tune of Space Oddity they sang, “This is Fast Food Rights to McDonald’s, we’ve really had enough.
“And you treat your staff in the most peculiar way. We’ve grown very sick of it today.”
After blockading McDonald’s the protesters marched parliament, holding up traffic as they went.
Once there they held a forum inside the House of Commons with Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell and MP Dawn Butler.
The US workers spoke of the conditions they have to put up with. Latoya said, “I get paid $10 an hour. I have five children and I’m a single mom.
“I just went four months without lighting and water. We work for hours and it still isn’t enough.”
Fast food workers in Britain told of their own experiences. A McDonald’s worker said, “It makes me livid to see the effects that such a hierarchical system can have.
“I’ve seen pregnant women put in conditions that endanger them and their child.”
McDonnell said conditions for fast food workers reminded him of those that dock workers used to have. He said, “What we’ve seen in recent years is a resurrection of that system in a modern form. It’s either zero hours, low pay or refusal to recognise a union.
“The ability to victimise in this sector is like stepping back 50 or 60 years. One worker once told me he hadn’t got any hours because he hadn’t been smiling enough.”
But he added that the US fast food strikes had been inspiring, “like hearing the battle cry over the hill.”
US worker Ashley organised a strike at her McDonald’s in Memphis. She said, “The first time I went on strike, I was afraid.
“But when I saw how many people had come to support us it was like, damn this feels good. When you get a free day to bust your manager, you feel so good.”
She added, “The second time I went on strike I brought my whole store out. They closed the whole store down, so we started hitting other stores. We sat in the middle of the street for five hours.
“We did go to jail, I’m not going to lie, but we felt like it was worth it. Because if we don’t stand up for one another, if we don’t stand up for ourselves, whose going to help us?”