Workers at two McDonald’s restaurants are preparing to ballot for strikes. The Bfawu union members in Cambridge and Crayford, south London, are fighting for a £10 an hour wage and their right to belong to the trade union of their choice.
“We did not start this because we wanted to strike, but just to protect ourselves and unionise,” Shen from the Crayford store told Socialist Worker.
“We’ve been forced to hold this ballot because McDonald’s ignored us. When we followed the grievance procedure, nothing happened.
“We don’t deserve to be treated the way we are but we’ve had to fight all the way.”
Shen talked about how workers built the union. “Organising at work was really hard to begin with,” she said. “We kept being told that McDonald’s workers would be impossible to organise because of the high turnover of staff and other factors.
“But it was literally a case of just talking to people, listening to their stories and thinking about how we can do something about it.
“At my store one guy lost his flat because his shifts were cut.
“A lot of people joined the union because of the manager, in order to protect themselves.”
The workers’ campaign takes inspiration from the Fight For $15 movement in the US.
Over 10 million workers in the US are set to have the minimum wage in their states set to $15 an hour as a result of a large and militant campaign of strikes and protests.
“It shows people what is possible,” said Shen. “Jeremy Corbyn’s success can inspire people as well. With Labour doing well at the moment people are more open to left wing ideas like joining a trade union—that’s really important.”
Another innovation from the US is the idea of “walkbacks”.
Supporters walk workers back to work after going on strike to prevent management victimisation. If workers vote to strike activists should consider doing this alongside fast food workers in Britain.
The demand for £10 an hour has been popularised by Labour’s election manifesto and can help give confidence to fast food workers that haven’t been a focus for the big trade unions in Britain.
This new ballot will hopefully be the first of many in a sector where wages are low and conditions are grim. But workers in McDonald’s are showing it’s possible to get organised.