Socialist Worker

McDonald’s workers cheer successful first strike

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2570

McDonalds workers on strike cheer outside of parliament

McDonald's workers on strike cheer outside of parliament (Pic: Guy Smallman)


McDonald’s workers launched their first ever strike at the multinational in Britain on Monday.

Chants of, “I believe that we can win” rang out outside the two stores in Cambridge and Crayford, in south east London, where workers walked out.

The Bfawu union members’ action was part of the Fast Food Rights campaign’s national day of action for a £10 an hour minimum wage and union rights.

Stephanie was the first worker to walk off shift at the Crayford restaurant to the cheers of fellow workers and supporters.

“I was overwhelmed by the number of people who were there to support us,” she told Socialist Worker.

“This is the first time I’ve done anything like this. Normally when I’ve had a problem at work I’ve just got another job, but now I’m making a difference, not just for me but other workers.”

At the Cambridge picket line trade unionists, including the FBU firefighters’ union, came to show their solidarity.

Tom, a Bfawu member at the Cambridge restaurant, told Socialist Worker, “The amount of support we’ve had has been phenomenal.”

Nearly all of the workers are first-time strikers.

The walkout gave workers a sense of their power to take on the bosses—and solidarity from supporters on the picket lines boosted their confidence.

Exciting

Lewis, a Bfawu union member at the Crayford restaurant, said, “I’ve been on lots of protests before, but this is the first time I’ve been on strike. It’s exciting that we’re finally fighting back.”

Workers from both restaurants rallied outside parliament at lunchtime.

John McDonnell, Labour’s shadow chancellor, told the rally, “This is just the start until McDonald’s sits down and negotiates with the union.

“This is the start of action that will bring all the fast food employers to the table.”

Jeremy Corbyn sent a message of solidarity and other Labour MPs spoke at the rally.

Bfawu general secretary Ronnie Draper said, “More people are going to take inspiration from what you’ve done. We can win this together.”

Draper also urged people to support the left wing Labour leadership. “Let’s stay with them, back them to get into government and we can get what we want,” he said.

It’s important that workers have won the Labour leadership’s backing—and the optimism generated by Corbyn helped them build the union.

But they are right to fight for £10 an hour now—not just wait for the next election.

Workers want to build on what they’ve achieved. Tom said, “This is just the beginning of the campaign, our strike can inspire those still going in and other workers.”

The strikes have shown that “precarious” workers can organise and strike. Everyone should continue to back recruitment and organising.

On the eve of the Trades Union Congress the strikes are a reminder to leaders of bigger unions that we need action about pay, not just words.

Further action and support from other unions can keep pressure on the McDonald’s bosses.


Strikers boosted by solidarity

Activists across Britain organised solidarity protests and meetings for the McDonald’s walkout on Monday.

They rattled buckets to raise money for the strike fund and build support for the Bfawu union among workers in the stores.

Up to 100 people rallied outside the McDonald’s branch in Manchester.

Strikers and supporters raised money in Brixton in south London, and Bfawu and the Unite the Resistance network protested in Newcastle.

Actions also took place in Huddersfield, Portsmouth, Sheffield, Birmingham, Scarborough, Swansea and other towns and cities.

Fast Food workers from Toronto in Canada to South Korea sent solidarity messages. And there were “Fight for $15” protests in many parts of the United States. Some 200 people also rallied outside the McDonald’s headquarters in Finchley, north west London, last Saturday.

And on the evening of the walkout Unite the Resistance organised a solidarity meeting in central London.

The 70-strong meeting began with big cheers for all the strikers in the room.

Shen Batmaz, a leading Bfawu member at the Crayford restaurant, said, “Not a single one of us could have done this alone, the only way we are going to change things is together.”

The meeting showed the breadth of solidarity they received, and it debated how to link up fights.

Labour MP and former McDonald’s worker Laura Pidcock said they were “turning the tide”.

“It’s important not to see parliamentarians as saviours, we can only be the mouthpiece for struggle in workplaces and streets,” she said.


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