Mitch Mitchell reports from the Cambridge picket lines and London rally of McDonald’s workers taking strike action for the first time
This morning (4 September) workers at two branches of McDonald’s, Cambridge and Crayford, took industrial action for the first time in the UK. The date is significant as it is “Labor Day” in the USA and, of course, McDonald’s are an American corporation. The UK workers are striking for an end to zero hours contracts, a fair wage of £10 per hour (the CEO is paid $50 million per annum), the right to join a union and to organise without management bullying and intimidation. Workers at both branches had received letters from their respective managers and both letters were worded exactly the same.
The first picket I attended was in Cambridge at 6am. It was a lively affair attended by about 60-70 people. Speakers included Daniel Zeichner, the MP, Lewis Herbert, Labour Leader of the City Council, Ian Hodson, president of BFAWU, the Bakers’ Union, which the McDonalds’s staff have joined and Tom, one of the striking workers, plus others.
It was noticable that the strikers were all young and very resolute in their aims. They spoke about a young co-worker who is a single mother with a 4 year old child. They are homeless, despite her working long shifts.
The restaurant was being staffed by managers and one speaker quipped that it must be McD’s most expensive shift as they were having to pay the wages of 4 managers! I later discovered that Crayford branch had been staffed by scabs, bussed in from another branch in SE London.
The picket lines were followed by a rally outside Parliament on College Green where workers and supporters from both striking branches came together. Speakers there were introduced by the comedian Mark Thomas. The first to speak was shadow chancellorJohn McDonnell who was in bouyant mood and lifted everyone’s spirits. He was followed by MPs John Speller and, introduced as “the woman who turned Kensington red”, Emma Dent Coad. London Assembly member Caroline Russell from the Green Party also spoke and she was followed by Ronnie Draper, BFAWU General Secretary.
Several other speakers took the rostrum including one from one of the New Zealand branches of McDonald’s. McDonald’s workers in New Zealand were the first in the world to be allowed to join a union and he brought solidarity. The workers in the US branches are also taking action today in their quest for $15 per hour.
All in all, both the early picket and the rally were among the livliest I have been on in a long time and I was struck by the enthusiasm and zeal of the young people there today.