Workers at two McDonald′s stores in the UK will be striking on Monday 4 September. The strike is part of a global McDonald′s strike, and is the first time McDonald′s workers in the UK have struck.
Workers in Cambridge and Crayford were balloted and voted by 95% in favour of strikes. Almost as soon as the ballot result was announced McDonald′s offered 80,000 of its UK workers guaranteed hours, thereby agreeing to one of their demands even before the strike. Steve, a worker at a McDonald′s store in Cambridge, spoke to Solidarity about their struggle.
Why are McDonald’s workers going on strike?
We’re striking for £10 an hour, union recognition and end of zero-hour contracts. In the recent past, a third of workers have had their hours dropped without warning. One 17 year-old worker had to leave his parents’ house and is only on £4 an hour — he works five days a week but can’t afford a place to live and is living in a broken car, despite his health problems. We are striking to demand better.
What’s the plan for the day?
We will have picket lines at 6-7 a.m. in Cambridge and 7-8 a.m. in Crayford. We’ll then move to a rally in Parliament Square at 10 a.m. Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Frances O’Grady from the TUC, and people like Lily Allen and Russell Brand will be there showing their solidarity with the strike.
How have you been organising?
The most important thing has been building the union membership. Our strategy has been to find out what their issues are and how they are affecting them, and get them to imagine what it would be like if it wasn’t the case. We link the problems they face to their pay and conditions. We tell them of the victories workers have had around the world, like a doubled minimum wage in New Zealand and $64 billion in rises for three million workers in the US.
Second, we make sure workers know what a union is — they often don’t, especially young workers who haven’t experienced struggle before. We tell them a union is people like them organising together and using their strength in numbers to win things they couldn’t do on their own. It isn’t a service provider, an insurance policy, a way of getting discounts — it’s workers coming together and changing things for ourselves — we impress this on workers. We hold branch meetings twice weekly where we democratically discuss how to win what we need.
What do you think the potentials are for spreading the strike to other McDonald’s sites?
There are now six sites organising as a result of what we’ve done and moving towards balloting for strike action. This has been completely organic — they’ve started this themselves before we’ve heard about it. What’s happening here is encouraging others to get active in their workplaces and fight the same problems that we face. It shows the potential to organise in a big way.
What about other fast food outlets?
Absolutely. We’ve been talking to workers from all different chains and they face the same problems, so the solution with be exactly the same as ours — organising in a union. We want to keep building the momentum.
Corbyn has publicly said he supports the strike, and a £10/hour minimum wage and banning zero hour contracts was in the 2017 Labour manifesto — what do you think the potential is for support from the Labour Party for the dispute?
McDonnell said we have the full support of the Labour Party. Both him and Corbyn will be there on the strike day. They’ve been talking about building community campaigns. In my old Labour Party, Momentum and the Labour Party were the most supportive people I’ve met. We want Labour to seriously take up the strike.
What can local Labour parties, Young Labour, and Momentum groups do to support the strike?
Join us on a picket line! We’re also asking local Labour parties and Momentum groups to hold demos outside their local McDonalds on 4 September. Social media is also useful for spreading the message. The reach of Momentum could be very important. Our hashtags are #mcstrike and #fastfoodglobal — solidarity messages are great to boost the strike and morale.
Every solidarity message is encouraging - we never expected the incredible support we’re getting. Our success is down to how we’re organising, our mind set. Which is to be serious, organised and disciplined. We’re not fucking about, we fight collectively, and we’re disciplined, by which I mean we’re not off doing our own thing — we are active as a collective and march together as one. We keep people in the loop so one or two people aren’t taking control. We want everyone to share experiences of all aspects of organising and striking.
• Follow the campaign on Facebook or Twitter
• Join the demonstration at McDonald's Headquarters in London on Saturday 2 September
• Join the demonstration in Parliament Square at 10.30am on strike day — Monday 4 September