- McJobs and Workers -

I Agree, and I Don't Agree.

Posted by: Flint Jones ( IWW, USA ) on October 19, 1998 at 12:32:03:

In Reply to: so you think a union will help you? posted by mike on October 18, 1998 at 12:15:18:

Mike: this is for all you out there that think a union would be your savior. What everyone forgets is that unions are just like mcdonalds, their a business. do you really think a union cares about their members? they just want to organize as many places as possible, so that the union dues fills up their wallets.

Flint: There are unions, and then there are unions. Listen Mike, I agree with you. Most unions are only after dues money. Infact the IWW has known that this is a problem since its foundation.

From The Wobblies: Tactics and Vision for a New Workers' Movement

"For almost a century, the leadership of the AFL-CIO has worked
hand in hand with the capitalists to squelch rank and file militancy.
Their overriding concern has been "industrial harmony," not
economic and social justice, and so they fail to question the most
basic assumptions of capitalist production. While union bosses play
golf with the titans of industry, real wages and safety conditions have
continued to worsen these last thirty years or so.

"Regular AFL trade unions split workers up into their respective
skills, allowing one craft union to cross the picket line of another.
The IWW believes in "industrial unionism," organizing all workers in
a given industry into the same union (thus our name). At a
construction site, for instance, the carpenters should be able to
count on the unswerving support of the plumbers, laborers,
electricians, and hod carriers in the event of a strike. This is much
simpler when all these workers are in the same industrial union,
rather than separate, even competing, trade unions.

"Some Wobblies find themselves in jobs where they are represented
by these more conservative trade unions. These "two- card" Wobs
often bring their IWW principles to the union hall with them,
agitating for rank and file democracy, more militant "direct action"
tactics, and class solidarity. The IWW does not believe in signing
away the right to strike ( the so-called "no strike" clause), nor does
it condone the "dues check-off," in which management deducts
union dues directly from the paycheck. While the IWW often does
strike support for other unions when necessary, we also try to keep
our sights on the bigger prize ahead."

Flint: We believe that the treasurery of the union belongs in the pockets of its membership. If there is an organizing drive going on, we look to members to volutarily contribute, they decide as individuals what collective struggles they want to help out with. Further, it also protects our union funds from being seized to try and strikes, or whatever. Unions should definately try and help workers get insurance and pensions, but those shouldn't be controlled by the Union.

Many unions aren't willing to organize shops under 50 employees because its not in their interests to expend effort to unionize such a small shop. There simply isn't enough money in it for them. Most pro-business types will understand this logic... but most Wobblies find it disgusting. Its those workers who are paid the least, who have the least say in their jobs, are the ones who need to organize the most.

Many unions are also horribly corrupt. Closed accounting books and an undemocratic structure have led to union funds being used for all kinds of shady projects. The IWW doesn't have a large union coffer as a prize first of all, and second our books are completely open. Every month General Head Quarters sends out our General Organizational Bulletin which includes complete figures for the finances of the union, local delegates are also open to such scrutiny by the membership. Most of the IWW dues go to continuing communication, mostly through printing costs, maintaining a phone, and a handful of modestly paid office workers. Almost all the work done by the union is on a volunteer basis, and most of the funds that keep things running (like the numerous servers on the iww.org network) are sustained by voluntary contributions, and not by raiding the union treasuery.

Mike: every mcd employee who wishes to get unionized must remember 1 important thing---not all mcdonalds restaurants are big time money makers. some restaurants just get by. do you really think these restaurants will remain open if a union arrives? the union will push wages up and eventually close the restaurant. this is perfectly legal if it is not financially viable for the restaurant to continue operating. so yes folks, you might get a union, but you will lose a job.

Flint: Much earlier I posted a detailed summary of McDonald's Finances I recieved from the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission. Now, its important to remember that this is the profit for the Corporation, and the only reference to franchises is in the amount the Corp collects from them.
While there are certainly some stores that are in trouble, a better manner than just accepting that your store might be in trouble is to go up to the owner or management and ask them to show you the books. Have them compare your wages to theirs, compare your yearly income to their profit margin. Don't be suprised if they tell you that they can't do it... they can't... they just won't. Likewise, If your in a union... demand to see their books as well. If they don't, then you probably need a different union. Mike would have us believe that if you cut into your bosses' profits, the store will go away and everyone will loose their job. With factories that can be moved to more improvished countries where people are work for $4/day at an 11 hour-shift like the Han Young Factory that makes parts for Hyundai in Baja, Mexico, this is a possibility. But McDonald's is responding to a local need by providing a supply. Many workers in the Fastfood industry, move from job to job... but basically remain doing the same thing, in the same conditions, for the same pay... with only minor variations. There is going to be fast food jobs as long as people want fast food. The IWW wants to help organize all the restraunt workers together, so that as an industry we can raise wages and benefits across the board, not in just one location. It works. However, you've got to have solidarity, workers at other fast food restraunts need to support you, they can't come in and scab on you, they can't drop their wages to run your shop out of business. It requires an amount of trust and unity that capitalism's dog-eat-dog competition tries to tell us does not exist, but it does exist and examples are every where. One of the most powerful symbols of solidarity is the secondary boycott, also known as the General Strike!

Some more from, The Wobblies:

"The General Strike has long been touted by militant unionists as the ultimate expression of workers' power, and it still plays an
important role in the IWW's program for social change. Simply put, a General strike is a massive work stoppage on a local,
regional, or national scale, and may involve people either staying home or occupying their workplaces and refusing to work.

"A General Strike halts business as usual, and serves notice to those in power that those of us doing the work have the ultimate
say in whether that work gets done or not. It debunks the myth that power flows downward, and proves instead that all real
power still resides at the grassroots level, if we only choose to exercise it.

"The general Strike is a common tactic in many countries of the world, yet most North American workers are unfamiliar with it.
This is largely the result of the conservative trade unions' reluctance to flex their economic muscle and rock the boat. A great
deal of education and organization must take place before North American workers are ready to wage a successful General
Strike, and it's toward this end that the IWW dedicates itself."

Now you cynics will probably say, it'll never happen in the U.S.
But they just had one in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, to resist the privatization of their telephone company. Just imagine how things might improve if every fast food restraunt was willing to shut down for even a few hours (like say from 11am to 1pm) to get some demand met, like a minimum wage of $7, or some kind of health insurance.

Mike: all you folks who want a union, lose your egos and stop trying to get your 15 mins of fame by unionizing a mcdonalds.

Flint: I think you are insulting lots of people who are actively engaged in a struggle to improve their situation. If you don't believe in unions, fine... but the media is notorious for its undercoverage of labor struggles. For instance, do you remember hearing more about the Puerto Rican general strike? They should go right on standing up for themselves and demanding to be treated human beings and not just wage slaves that can be pushed around. Its about democracy, liberty and equality. Its about freedom. I suppose you have to have something of an ego not to do everything your told.

Mike: if you have problems there are many other ways to get it corrected, than putting your money into union coffers, and possibly losing your jobs. I know for a fact that there are many good caring people in the mcdonalds managers system who will take the time to listen and take action to fix your problems.

Flint: I agree also. Be very suspicous of anyone who wants your money. You work hard for what little you get after someone has already skimmed the profits off the top. There are good managers out there, most of them that are good, won't have a problem with a union because they are already seeking your input at as a fellow worker and want to see you get more of what you have coming to you. They'll respect you. The best way to get your concerns addressed is through Direct Action.

From How to Fire Your Boss: A Worker's Guide to Direct Action
"Direct action is any form of guerrilla warfare that cripples the boss' ability to make a profit and makes him/her cave in to the
workers' demands. The best-known form of direct action is the strike, in which workers simply walk off their jobs and refuse
to produce profits for the boss until they get what they want. This is the preferred tactic of the AFL-CIO ``business unions,''
but is one of the least effective ways of confronting the boss.

"The bosses, with their large financial reserves, are better able to withstand a long drawn-out strike than the workers. In many
cases, court injuctions will freeze or confiscate the union's strike funds. And worst of all, a long walk-out only gives the boss a
chance to replace striking workers with a scab (replacement) workforce.

"Workers are far more effective when they take direct action while still on the job. By deliberately reducing the boss' profits
while continuing to collect wages, you can cripple the boss without giving some scab the opportunity to take your job. Direct
action, by definition, means those tactics workers can undertake themselves, without the help of government agencies, union
bureaucrats, or high-priced lawyers. Running to the National Labor Relations Board (N.L.R.B.) for help may be appropriate in
some cases, but it is NOT a form of direct action. "

Incidently, IWW dues are very low. Its a progressive structure based on your income level. If you earn under $1000/month its $5/month, $1000-2000 its $10/month, and above $2000/month its $15/month. Workers in particularly bad situations (unemployed, chronic illnes, large families, etc...) pay either $3/month or in some cases are free. As I said before, most of this goes to keeping our membership informed through the Industrial Worker, and the General Organization Bulletin (sorry, only members get to see it). Initiation is the same as one month's dues, and with it you get the Constitution, One Big Union, and some other union supplies.

Anyway, if you've actually tried going to management and getting your concerns addressed... and it didn't work. Maybe instead you should go to your fellow workers and see if by working together you can get your concerns met. Maybe acting independently as an informal group will be best, maybe you'll want some suppport (and likewise want to support others)... then maybe you should join a union, like the IWW.

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