|“We don’t want to prostitute a piece of our lives to an idiotic pursuit of wealth on behalf of those who already have too much”- Glasgow
"everyone talks about how much they hate their job, we wanted to turn words into action"- Reading.
|It’s 3:00am GMT, Wednesday October 16th 2002, some tired and slightly drunk Glaswegians are trying to vandalise a McDonalds restaurant. Unremarkable, except that these are McDonalds own employees and at the very same time on the other side of the world, in New Zealand they’re attempting a strike, and the leaflets are reaching workers in Australia…
Now it’s lunchtime in Europe and, for a time, eight McDonalds can’t function because the staff are no longer prepared to sacrifice themselves obediently to the McProfit machine. Then they walked out in Nottingham as well…
Five hours later and the streets of Milan are filled with hundreds of supporters of fast food workers, while ten bus loads of cops wait in the driving Frankfurt rain to try and limit communication between the Freie ArbeiterInnen Union and the golden arches’ employees. McDonalds workers taking direct action and solidarity actions all over the world, it’s …
|“We don’t take shit, we make it”- Midlands|
|THE INTERNATIONAL MCSTRIKE!|
|This is an attempt to give a taste of struggle on October 16th from a workers’ perspective. It’s difficult to know where to start because so much happened- sections of the McDonalds workforce launched an unprecedented counter attack against exploitation and boredom…
· Six McDonalds in France represented by the CNT union on strike.
· Temporary work stoppage in Moscow.
· Strike in Norfolk.
· McDonalds blockaded in Milan.
· Attempted strike in New Zealand.
· Attempts at strikes in three London stores.
· Walkout in Nottingham.
· Demonstration in Mexico which has unfortunately resulted in 94 arrests.
· A mass of direct action and sabotage.
· Actions to encourage workers’ resistance from Sweden to Sydney.
· Class struggle from Aberdeen to Adelaide, from Milan to Malmoe.
· The whole thing captured on an all day radio special in Slovenia.
|A few disclaimers- this is being written in a rush on the 17th before we’ve received all reports; we are often relying on second-hand information and haven’t been able to verify all stories; this isn’t dealing with general anti-McDonalds protests, not because we don’t support them, but because we want to concentrate on McWorkers’ direct action and those who encourage it; this is not an attempt to provide a comprehensive account of such activities on the 16th..|
|Things had started before the 16th. There were campaigns by workers at three stores in the London area using stickers and graffiti to agitate for action. There were a number of actions over the weekend in France organised by the CNT-AIT union who continued their tradition of solidarity with McDonalds workers from inside and outside restaurants. Then on the morning of the 15th, staff and early customers turned up to a store in Reading, England to find “closed due to strike, October 16th, mwr.org.uk” sprayed across it.
Some workers who weren’t working on the 16th did their bit by sabotaging their restaurants the night before. In one English store they altered all the settings on the food storage Microwave and reset the grill timers, they stole the keys to the security camera VCR box, changed all the clocks, used obscure trip switches to disable equipment and super glued the till locks! While in Dallas, USA, they hid important equipment and defrosted food.
On the morning of October 16th a single chrysanthemum flower arrived at McDonalds head office in London- "The chrysanthemum was the symbol of the revolution in Hungary that began on October 16th 1918. so we delivered it as a token of our intent to build a world that puts people before profits. But the chrysanthemum is also a symbol of death, so we delivered it as a harbinger of the imminent destruction of the McDonalds empire and all wage labour- we neither need it nor want it. There is a new world growing in our hearts and we are taking our first tentative steps towards it". But workers in the Midlands of England went a stage further… they sent 57 chrysanthemums to the head office in Chicago- one for every worker at their store.
And Chicago may be the belly of the beast but the resistance has spread there as well- the ‘Chicago Corps of the paramilitary front for the liberation of McDonalds Workers’ went on a breaking spree at work. This was just one example out of many acts of sabotage that took place around the world. In Dublin they looted the tills for a drinking session. In Birmingham there was a go slow day that knocked hundreds of pounds off the days sales. The night shift phoned in sick in Nottingham and there were reports of several incidents in Northampton, including three hour breaks, walk outs, phoney sickness, and drinking on the job. In Adelaide they cut open all the milk based mix- “no ice cream or thick shakes which just happens to be all we fucking sell! (…) Burger fury with love from Aus”. In Manchester they cemented the toilets.
|There were mass resignations in Glasgow and Torronto where they entered their store as a group, flung their uniforms across the counter and then one of them stood on a chair and gave a speech to staff and customers about working conditions and that "the food is spat in anyway". In London, Stirling and Dundee workers from MWR leafleted their colleagues at other stores in a bid to spread news of the struggle. In the Derbyshire area, a newsletter produced by Midlands MWR and the Oct. 16th call to action were Photocopied and copies were laid out on lobby next to the newspapers - "Apparently Resulting In Some Interesting Customer/Crew Solidarity!". In Liverpool some girls insisted on wearing make up for the day (normally forbidden by company policy)- “We really hate not being allowed to wear make up especially when we have to deal with drunk dickheads and McDonalds gives you spots”. Workers phoned in sick in Stirling, Kent, Copenhagen, Sheffield, Newcastle and Madrid|
|"emancipation from the fast-food nation and an end to da racist exploitation, been da same shit thru da ages, black men made to work for slave wages - MILF"- in store graffiti
“we are 3 people slaves of McDonalds of Madrid. Not
today! today we are listening to music!"
“McAnarchy rules! (…) I love it when a plan comes together…”- England
|Then there were the strikes. In six Paris McDonalds controlled by CNT France they went on strike around specific demands related to full time employment and standardised pay rates. They gathered at 10:00am by the ‘Fountain Of Innocents’, at 3pm they were due to meet with McDonalds representatives and they arranged a public meeting in the evening. In Norfolk a strike crippled a restaurant, there was a picket that held for most of the day. At one point a manager came out to moan pitifully “why Are you doing this?”, “read the leaflet”, “I’m not reading that” he raged, ripping it up. When McDonalds head office were asked why the store was virtually un-staffed they replied that it was because of “some sad individuals trying to take McDonalds down”. And then there was the magnificent news from Moscow. As far as we can understand, they negotiated with a “friendly” manager to be allowed to stop work for a short time without the matter being taken further. Although lacking much common language, the feeling of international solidarity as we talked on the phone was amazing.
And the solidarity actions around the world were fantastic. The Industrial workers of the world leafleted at stores in several Australian towns- “At least we'll get some leaflets to fellow workers here, and confuse the fuck out of management as they try and work out how the infection spread to Australia!!". The Freie ArbeiterInnen Union leafleted workers in many German McDonalds- they entered staff areas, displayed banners, made speeches. In Belfast the Anarchist Syndicalist Federation found that "most workers thought it was dead funny (…) we planted the seeds of resistance in the two main McDonalds in Belfast...". In Scotland all the stores in central Edinburgh were leafleted and stickered and there was a picket in Aberdeen. In Sweden Autonomt Motstand used flyers and graffiti to spread the word and there were solidarity actions in Lancaster and London, Bratislava, Belgrade and Bristol. Several towns in Italy saw actions including Milan where solidarity was forged between activists and workers as a series of actions unfolded culminating in a McDonalds being blockaded as a sound system broadcast music and a message of solidarity from McWorkers in the UK. See Chainworkers for more. As events unfolded throughout the day they were reported along with interviews, anti-McDonalds music and jingles on an all day radio special in Slovenia.
|“World's shortest strike. Maybe it is a record. But let it be known that you have friends here in Aetearoa”- NZ
“Germany McDonalds is your supporter also we want revolution fuck McDonalds fuck burger always we make trouble but today do nothing they say nothing because more money is needed even Big Mac is expensive to us. Everywhere we are united McDonalds is money, solidarity is better"- Germany
“There is a young generation of workers who wont put up with as much as previous generations.”- London
|This is not enough! Oct. 16th was not an end in itself, its purpose was to increase the confidence and ability of McDonalds workers to take control over areas of our lives that have always been dictated to us. We called for action demanding the right to organise- what we have done is to demonstrate that they cannot stop us from organising and that we don’t need permission. October 16th was a small guerrilla attack that shattered a massive empire’s air of invincibility and excited and inspired our networks of resistance. But the future is too uncertain for concrete plans, everything is open to debate. We want a serious analysis of where we stand just now and where we go next… we can organise internationally, so what we gonna do?
mwr.org.uk be part of it. And please support McDonalds workers the most important way- by making sure that struggle is part of everyday life where YOU live and work!
|Time line from the day Global day of action homepage
International leaflet for Oct. 16th MWR leaflet for Oct. 16th