Julie Sherry joined a delegation from the British bakers’ union to support a day of strikes by US fast food workers in North Carolina.
The movement of thousands of fast food workers in a series of strikes, spanning 150 cities across the US, has captured the eye of the international media. It’s easy to see why. The movement symbolises something incredible — non-unionised workers, those on the lowest pay, many of them black, many of them parents living in poverty, who work in the most difficult conditions with no job security — have now lost their fear.
The strikes raise questions about the power of the working class today and the challenges facing the trade union movement.
Managers of McDonalds and other fast food restaurants were not "lovin' it" in New York last month when hundreds of employees walked out in protests against working conditions and low pay.
It is estimated about 200 workers went on strike on 29 November in the fast food industry, which has, in the past, been notoriously difficult to unionise. Interestingly the average age of the workers is over 28. Most have families to support and have been reticent to take action. What made it even more significant was that the walkouts followed hundreds of "Black Friday" actions against supermarket giant Walmart alongside work stoppages at Los Angeles airport and California ports.
At last, someone is standing up for fast food workers. Safe working conditions, reasonable pay and respectful management are mere side issues to the real problem facing McDonald's staff right now: their careers are lumbered with the unfortunate title of "McJobs".
McDonald's claims the phrase is "out of date and insulting" (while not clarifying when, exactly, it was acceptable to use the term).
McDonald's says that in its staff surveys 90 percent of employees agree they are given valuable training that will be of benefit for the rest of their working lives, and 82 percent of its workers say they would recommend working at the company to their friends. Far be it from us to dispute the validity of these surveys - how could anyone earning the minimum wage not be appreciative?