McDonalds is known for worldwide hostility to trade unions. Whenever trade unions in any corner of the globe made serious attempts to organise McDonald's workers, Stan Stein (McDonald's US senior vice-president, Head of Personnel & labour relations) hasjetted into town. The McLibel trial has heard about a number of disputes. Many of those involved have appeared as witnesses for the defence.
A union seized and occupied for 3 weeks the first McDonalds store (which had opened with non-union labour). McDonalds agreed to recognize a different union, and all McDonalds stores are still unionised.
Puerto Rico 1970's:
Up to 1974, McDonalds employees were unionised, but the company was sold to a new franchisee. A dispute followed, closing all the stores and McDonalds pulled out of Puerto Rico. They reopened in 1980 with non-union labour.
A 7 month strike led to recognition of the ITGWU union. Anne Casey and Sean Mrozek, former McDonald's workers and union activists from the 1979 strike at two stores in Dublin. They told how there was discontent over low pay and poor conditions. And after the bitter strike ended with a labour court ruling that McDonald's should recognise the union, the main union activists were nevertheless sacked or otherwise victimised for union activity. In 1985, two union activists won a victory at a labour court after claiming victimisation and unfair dismissal.
Throughout the 1980's, unions attempted to negotiate with McDonalds the standard 'collective agreement' for food service companies. After protracted legal disputes and boycotts, McDonalds recognised the union in 1989.
In 1979, a letter was sent from McDonalds personnel department with instructions to store manager not to recruit any union sympathisers. In the 1980's, there were disputes with the NGG union, and eventually the company signed a union agreement in 1990.
Spain - Madrid 1986:
Four workers who had called for union elections were sacked by McDonalds. The company was forced to reinstate the workers after the labour court ruled that the dismissals were illegal.
In Beijing, protest leaflets were circulated about conditions.
When they opened their first store, McDonalds refused to negotiate with TUs, but after a strike and boycott threat, the company conceded.
Canary Islands 1993:
McDonalds were fined 13 million pesetas for falsely claiming state subsidies for 'staff training'.
Workers in an Ontario store joined a union, but the company managed to avoid recognition by ensuring victory in Labour Board sponsored elections. At the McLibel trial worker Sarah Inglis who at the age of 16 signed up a majority of the workes in an Ontario McDonald's store to a Union testified that:-
Afterwards, the court heard evidence from Defence witness Joel Henderson, pro-union crew member at the store. He said, "things have returned to the slave-like working conditions that crew must endure every single shift that they work".
On 9 July sixty seven workers at a local McDonald's in Massy, a suburb of North Paris, pulled a surprise strike, closing the store down during its busiest period. They were demanding "respect of their rights to engage in union activity, paid vacations, te right to choose their own delegates and recognition of their personal needs." Less than 24 hours after the strike an agreement was signed between management and the General Confederation of Workers (CGT) union representing the workers. A few days laterMcDonald's workers in the town of Ulis walked out. In Nantes, west France, McDonald's workers prepared a week of action with CGT trade unionists.
In France employees of companies of over 50 workers have the legal right to elect "delegates" with various rights, such as checking that overtime is paid and employment contracts are followed. In Lyons these rights were violated when management threatend that any employee voting for union delegates would be sacked. Only 38 of 458 employees voted in the first election. At the McLibel trial a Lyon crew member Hassen Lamti related:-