Workers from McDonalds, Wetherspoons and TGI Fridays all took part in an international co-ordinated day of action for £10 per hour and union rights on Thursday 4 October.
In London they were joined by Deliveroo and Uber Eats riders, and supporters from across the labour movement. At their rally and demonstration in Leicester Square they were joined by traffic wardens in Camden Unison, who are also currently on strike for a £11.15 an hour.
Solidarity action took place in cities across the UK. The first Wetherspoons strike was also coordinated from two sites in Brighton.
Around 250 people made it to Leicester Square for the demonstration in support of the strike with speakers from Unite, who organise in TGI Fridays, the Bakers Union, and representatives from French and US McDonalds campaigns who were also taking part in the action.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP addressed the crowd saying, “a Labour government will guarantee full employment rights from day one,” and guaranteeing the a £10 per hour living wage.
McDonnell also said that all Labour MPs had been notified that when there is a strike in their constituency, it is their duty to attend the picket. Given that McDonnell and others were criticised for attending junior doctors’ picket lines in 2016, this is a welcome step forward.
However, missing from the speech was a commitment to a Labour government making the right of unions to organise and carry out effective action easier, by repealing all of the existing anti-trade union laws. This is already Labour Party policy but over which the leadership have been silent.
The demonstrations and days of action are an important part of an ongoing campaign to organise these workers, inspired by the US “Fight for $15 Campaign”.
The Wetherspoons strike has taken some time to build and the workers there have a functioning Bakers’ Union branch that is prepared to do ongoing activity.
The TGI Fridays campaign is well organised around particular branches.
The McDonalds stores are more isolated and there is a longer way to go with permanent organisation in any of their stores.
However, the national and international attention that has been put on the campaign demands is another important step forward.
Uber: respect our digital picket line!
The first nationally-coordinated strike by Uber drivers took place on Tuesday 9 October for 24 hours.
The strike is being coordinated by the United Private Hire Drivers (UPHD) branch of the IWGB union, and will see protests at Uber offices in London, Birmingham and Nottingham. People were urged by the union and supporters to respect the ″virtual picket line″ and not to use the app for the 24-hours of the strike.
Drivers are calling for an end to unfair deactivations of drivers, for an increase in fares to £2 per mile from the current £1.25 in London, and a 10% reduction in commissions paid by drivers. They are also calling for the 2016 tribunal judgement, which decreed drivers were not self-employed ″independent contractors″, to be enforced as soon as possible.
UPHD branch chair James Farrar said, “After years of watching take-home pay plummet and with management bullying of workers on the rise, workers have been left with no choice but to take strike action. We ask the public to please support drivers by not crossing the digital picket line by not using the app during strike time.”
The IWGB has another ongoing case against Uber which will be in court again on 30 and 31 October.
No worker you cannot organise
Justine, a striking McDonalds worker, spoke at their rally:
“It is exciting that there are so many people here and people from other McDonalds have come to support us in Brixton. The reason why I’m on strike and decided to join the union is because I believe that workers deserve better wages — the situation is crap right now!
“What is particularly inspiring about this campaign is that we were workers who were previously viewed as unorganisable by the labour movement, people who would drift in and out of work and we weren’t worth a union’s time.
“McStrike has proven that there is no worker that you cannot organise. There is no workforce that cannot be inspired to go out on strike and fight for their rights. Having Wetherspoons, TGI Fridays, the Couriers, The Ivy House all come out show that young workers are willing to come out fighting, and it is possible for us to win!
“I am inspired by all that work here today. I think it is only possible for our campaign to win if we have a united class, a united workforce and that means it is vital we defend the rights of migrant workers, and free movement within in the labour movement within the Labour Party.
“It is impossible for us to win if we have a divided class and the McStrike can win only if we start to build our unions and not build borders.”