FIGHTING THE DEBT
INSIDE THE BEAST
McDONALD’S IS a symbol of global capitalism. The ruthless corporation now has 27,000 outlets in 119 countries. It is also hell to work in. Socialist Worker spoke to a McDonald’s worker, who says: “It is like a production line. We are always understaffed. It is also a very physical job. There is lots of lifting heavy boxes and bags of rubbish. In the summertime it is much worse. The kitchen staff work in temperatures of 33C. A few months ago the air conditioning broke down. It was so hot there was sweat dripping off people. But the managers refused to call anyone to fix it. The managers watch you all the time. A young woman served a child who ordered four chicken nuggets recently. When five were counted out she just gave the fifth one to the kid. For that she got a verbal warning. There is a poster in the stores that talks about goals. The first three are increased profit, increased market share and then 100 percent customer satisfaction. Most of us are paid less than 4 an hour, with no pension rights unless you’re a manager. Before the minimum wage came in workers under 18 would start on 2.95 an hour, with 3.05 for those over 18. Some individual stores would set the rate higher, at say 4 an hour for over 18s. But when the minimum wage came in those stores dropped their rate to 3.60 an hour. Every few months there is a ‘full field’ time and motion ‘study’ on a Saturday. Many workers try to get off work through shift swapping or calling in sick because it is so bad. Management arrive with stopwatches. They stand over workers as young as 16 and shout at them to go faster. McDonald’s workers can be demoralised by the conditions they work under, but they are also angry. That anger can be organised. In any store there are people who have worked in unionised workplaces, former shop stewards, people who have stood on picket lines. The potential is there to stand up to the bosses.”
HELEN STEEL and Dave Morris ended up in the longest running trial in British history when they issued a leaflet attacking McDonald’s. The judge ruled that the pair had libelled McDonald’s, but he also found many of the pair’s accusations justified.
McDonald’s claims its food is nutritious. But an internal company memo admits, “We don’t sell nutrition.” The company claims it is not anti-union. But it admitted in the trial that any workers joining a union “would not be allowed to collect subscriptions…put up notices…pass out any leaflets…or to organise a meeting for staff to discuss conditions at the store on the premises”.
Nor would workers be allowed “to inform the union about conditions inside the stores”, and if they did it would be deemed “gross misconduct” and as such a “summary sackable offence”.
Sacked for compassion
REMI MILLET is a hero in France. He worked for McDonald’s in the southern French town of Albi. When a Gypsy beggar came into his restaurant he gave her his lunch allowance, five free cheeseburgers.
He was sacked as a result. “For the sake of McDonald’s image, we do not give to Gypsies,” he says his boss told him. His case went before an industrial tribunal last month, and there was a protest outside the court building.
Albi is only a few miles from Millau, where last year local left wing farmers’ leader Jos Bov dismantled a McDonald’s restaurant in protest at the World Trade Organisation. Bov is now backing Remi’s fight for justice.
Fight won union rights in Denmark
McDONALD’S WORKERS in Denmark won union recognition in the late 1980s. They took on the multinational and won. Socialist Worker spoke to BO MAGNUSSEN of the restaurant workers’ union in Denmark about how they did it:
“McDonald’s had just come to Denmark and it absolutely refused to have any union agreement. We only had a few union members, but we pulled them out and we paid them strike pay. McDonald’s could get other workers, but we had to do it. “We also built a boycott campaign. We held demonstrations outside the company’s restaurants. We had posters and badges and we gave out information leaflets to people going in. Our symbol was a dog urinating on the McDonald’s logo. “The protests embarrassed the company, which is very concerned about its image. “We also got other workers in the meat, fish and bread industries to refuse to supply McDonald’s. McDonald’s got round that because they got supplies in from abroad. But the fish was a problem for them, because at that time Denmark supplied all the fish for McDonald’s across Europe. After two years they backed down and made an agreement with the union. Now they pay 7.27 an hour for over 18s and 4.43 an hour for under 18s, plus extra for nights and weekend working. “Workers get all the normal rights, like two days off each week, six weeks annual holiday from next year, a 37 hour week, and half a year’s parental leave on full pay. It was a hard fight, but you can win.”
SCHOOLS offer excellent opportunities. They are a high traffic [sales] generator. Students are some of the best customers you could have…we are competing for a share of the customer’s mind.
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