McDonald's Enlightens Employees About Unions

Toronto, Canada

15th July 1998

McDonalds statements on Unions

The below questions have been posted up in our store on a question and answer board. Here's what they say word for word.

1. Q If we had a union, what would it cost me?

A It would cost you money to belong to a union. Unions can determine what your dues will be and demand a deduction from your paycheque. Some unions may also charge an Initiation fee. As well, a union usually requires that all employees be union members and pay dues which in our industry could represent $20.00 or more per month. Regardless of the hours you work.

2. Q Can a union really get everything that they promise?

A If a union is elected, it would only get the right to negotiate with McDonalds. A union cannot guarantee anything because it cannot force the company to give anything it is unwilling or unable to give.

Message to Toronto McDonald's workers (and all workers) trying to start a Union

Your message was reposted to the newsgroup to which I subscribe. I would like to share with you some perspectives on the questions posed and answered by McD, as well as your comment about the openness of your manager. First the questions

1. Q If we had a union, what would it cost me?


A) It generally would cost you nothing until you get a contract, since most unions do not charge dues until the members have ratified their first contract. Would you vote to accept a contract that cost you in dues more than it delivered in improvements? Most unions don't charge initiation fees to newly organized workers. Those who come late may have to pay one in recognition that they benefit from the efforts of those who went before them. As a union member, you and the other members have rights under the union constitution to vote for the policies and practices of the union, including how much dues to pay. Majority rules. Is the company saying they don't believe in democracy? They don't let you vote on your wages (or their salary and bonuses), do they? You get to elect your union leaders. Do they let you elect your managers? The union is a lot more democratic than any corporation.

B) Why is McD worried about YOUR dues all of the sudden? If they were so concerned for your welfare, they could have raised your wages any time. In addition to better wages and benefits, however, the value of a union is in something on which no price tag can be placed: dignity & justice -- the right to appeal a supervisor or manager's arbitrary or unjust treatment without fear of retaliation, the right to be free of harassment, the right to be informed of your rights rather having the boss take advantage of your ignorance of the law, and the right to even up a bit the power imbalance that exists between a lone employee and a huge corporation by acting collectively. Individuals can beg while union members can bargain.

C) What McD does not tell its employees it that they pay **their** "union" dues quite willingly. They pay dues to the Chamber of Commerce, trade associations, and other business groups that help advance and defend their interests, just as a union would do for you. They don't complain about those dues, because they know the value of being organized. They just don't want you to know!

D) Depending on what country you are in and how you do your taxes, union dues are also a tax deductible expense for many people, just as Chamber of Commerce dues (and all the lawyers and consultants they hire to keep you non-union) are a deductible business expense for McD.

E) The figure cited above of $20 "regardless of the hours you work" sounds to me to be stretching the truth. Much depends on the policies of the union you are joining. Each union has its own rules about how dues are calculated. The rules are voted on by the members. It is common, for example, for dues to be some multiple of the hourly wage (like twice one hour's wage per month), which means that dues are pegged to your earnings and go up when you get raises. If you do the math, however, you can see that if you got a $.50/hour raise (for example) and worked 20 hours per week and earned $6.00 per hour before the raise, your dues would be $6.50 X 2 = $13.00/month. But your raise would be worth $.50 X 20 X 4.3 (average weeks in a month) = $43.00 extra each month. You would be ahead $30/month in wages, but also get all the other things that unions negotiate (paid days off, vacations, insurance benefits, health & safety protection, seniority rights, grievance procedure, etc.).

(Response to question 2. missing)

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