M C S P O T L I G H T
P R E S S . R E L E A S E .
McDonalds Workers Resistance - Annual Report 2002
2002 saw McDonalds’ apparently unstoppable expansion not just slowed but in certain places reversed- around the world McDonalds is closing restaurants and pulling out of some countries completely. Profits are down (although still enormous) and Jack Greenberg has been unceremoniously ditched as top honcho. In stark contrast, McDonalds Workers' Resistance (MWR) has progressed impressively during these twelve months. We have developed from a small group of agitators to a substantial network increasingly capable of affecting McDonalds business.
This is the first MWR annual report, but it is hoped they will now appear regularly. The idea is to chronicle our activities and appraise initiatives and actions in order to provide a point of reference for future decision-making and thereby increase our impact. This is not an 'official' MWR document, it has not been debated by the whole organisation but produced by the secretariat. Opinions expressed within this document belong to the secretariat and proposals are not policy statements but tentative suggestions designed primarily for the discussion of the organisation. Throughout this report references are made to a "questionnaire", this refers to a wide-ranging survey distributed to all MWR's contacts in early 2003.
We go into 2003 with an already proud record and a great deal of ambition and opportunity. But as we grow and McDonalds falters, there is much work to be done and many questions to be answered- how do we respond now McDonalds is closing restaurants and workers are flung on the dole or worse? How can we go beyond symbolic resistance to have a real impact on our working lives? 2003 will be an important year!
A - Overview
B - Proposals for 2003
C - Review of 2002 in detail
The last year has seen MWR emerge as a real alternative to non-unionised slavery and ineffective, disinterested trade unions. The MWR network has expanded rapidly with local groups and contacts emerging across the UK as well as in Canada, the USA and Australia. Our contact base within the McDonalds workforce now runs to several hundred- all of who are capable of communicating with and influencing scores of other workers at their restaurant. It has become difficult to estimate the extent of our influence as, for example, we have been informed by third parties of MWR groups we did not even know existed. MWR is very disproportionately concentrated in the UK and has made very limited progress in non-English speaking countries.
As MWR has grown a clear system has been established has been established to allow people to become involved after confirming that they are McDonalds workers who do not have the power to hire and fire but do agree with the basic principles of MWR. Everyone involved has been encouraged to participate in the decision making process through membership of an internal e-mail discussion group. With the recent dissolution of Glasgow MWR, their administrative role has been passed to the newly established MWR secretariat.
Much of MWR’s expansion has been facilitated through our websites built during 2002. The main MWR website includes online versions of Glasgow MWR’s original magazine McSues, the Alternative Crew Handbook guide to the job, MWR FAQs, a section on our (anti) politics with responses to criticisms, press-cuttings, news, interviews and much more. It has already received tens of thousands of visitors. MWR in Manchester, England and the Midlands of England have produced their own excellent websites.
MWR has continued to play an advisory and supportive role, responding to hundreds of e-mails regarding, amongst other things, improper pay, illegal hours, totalitarian managers and unsafe working conditions. We have assisted a number of local direct-action campaigns through sending literature and producing advice where possible.
Our call for a global day of industrial action on October 16th was an unprecedented success and in collaboration with other militant groups of McDonalds workers established libertarian organisation as the cutting edge of resistance to this employer. This inspiring, genuinely international, day of rebellion has helped encourage us to keep struggling to develop a revolutionary workers’ organisation that upholds internationalism and direct action as principles.
There was a much smaller day of action on December the 21st in solidarity with the Argentinean popular rebellion and the anti-McDonalds protesters arrested in Mexico on October 16th.
Through working together on days of action and through sending delegates to a number of international meetings, MWR has worked actively to develop links with a range of other organisations and have also attempted to support employees of Pizza Hut, Burger King and Subway Sandwich Bar in establishing their own resistance groups.
Our struggles in 2002 were built around October 16th and our demand for the right to organise according to our wishes. Of course, McDonalds didn’t capitulate and grant us free association- that was never the point- we were busy proving that we do not need their permission.
Proposals for 2003
It is the opinion of this report that:
Without stepping back from our determined internationalism, the concentration of active participants in the UK should be reflected with a sub-organisation to focus on campaigns relevant to this area and that if successful this model of organisation be considered by local contacts/ groups in other nations when their local networks are sufficiently developed.
- There must be increased use of the internal e-mail discussion group and involvement of more voices in the decision making process.
- We should work towards continued growth of the MWR network, increased activity of regional contacts and more widespread active participation in the production of MWR material.
- We observe that following suggestions from other McDonalds workers, attention was given within the questionnaire to a proposal for concrete campaigns demanding wage increases, and that given the generally positive response, such campaigns be a central part of our activity in 2003.
- To a degree, we should formalise the structure of the organisation with clearer definitions of the decision-making process and respective roles of regional contacts and the secretariat.
- We should establish some mechanism for receiving funds and, as a fundraising initiative, further investigate the development of MWR clothing.
- We should conduct a wide-ranging investigation into McDonalds workers’ experiences and opinions of the job.
- We should provide regularly updated online news about MWR, McDonalds and anything else of relevance.
- We should make available, to ourselves and other McDonalds workers, a pack of stickers, leaflets, magazines and other information to assist them in spreading resistance in their restaurants.
- As a matter of priority we re-establish a secure postal address.
- We don’t forget to entertain and have a laugh!
Review of 2002 in detail
As stated in the overview, the size of the MWR network, and thus the amount of the McDonalds workforce we can communicate with grew impressively during 2002. MWR is now represented in:
- UK: Glasgow, Stirling, Oxford, Wales, Greater London, South East England, North West England, Manchester, South West England, North East England, Midlands of England, Manchester, Isle of Wight, Northern Ireland, Edinburgh, Lothian, Durham County.
- USA: Washington, Virginia, WV, Florida, Colorado, Missouri
- Canada: Winnipeg, Quebec
- Australia: Sydney
Some work is required to confirm all these contacts are active. We are also in contact with several hundred other supportive McDonalds workers. It is hoped the MWR network will continue to expand in 2003 and there is no reason to expect this will not be the case.
Although the majority of respondents to the questionnaire felt the structure of MWR was "about right", a significant number indicated they thought it was too informal. There are also concerns that as the organisation has grown the decision making process has not been formalised to ensure fairness. It is recommended that the structure of the organisation be slightly formalised with clear definitions of the decision-making process and respective roles of the regional contacts and the secretariat.
The regional contact system was established during 2002. A regional contact can be an individual McDonalds worker active in resistance at his or her restaurant or a group of McDonalds workers that has affiliated to the MWR network. A person/ group wishing to become a regional contact must agree with the following:
- - I am currently employed by McDonalds in some capacity.
- - I do not have the power to hire and fire other employees.
- - I recognise that McDonalds is only interested in making money out of us and that our interests are not the same as those of the company.
- - I support all low level McDonalds employees regardless of sex, ethnicity, etc.
- - I do not want to assume a position of power or become a leader.
It is hoped that during 2003 regional contacts will become increasingly active.
The secretariat has taken over the administrative roles previously performed by Glasgow MWR, which dissolved following dwindling numbers (as individuals moved town or changed job) and concerns it was playing a leadership role. The secretariat shall not call initiatives as Glasgow MWR used to. A definition of the role of the secretariat and the conditions of its removal shall be available soon.
Democracy and Decision Making
An internal e-mail discussion group was established during 2002 to allow everyone ‘officially’ involved with MWR to communicate with each other and co-ordinate decision making internationally. This list has had mixed fortunes, at times it has been lively but it has often been too quiet. It is of vital importance that more people contribute e-mails to this list if MWR is to keep going forward and be genuinely democratic.
Towards the end of 2002, MWR gratefully received its first ever financial donation. Up to this point MWR had continued to operate on a zero budget but it is no longer possible for ever increasing expenses to be met out of our wages. It is important that we establish some way of receiving funds, i.e. a bank account. We also need some regular fundraising initiatives- the "market research" section of the questionnaire revealed considerable interest in MWR clothing. This is something we should investigate further in 2003.
2002 saw MWR establish its website which has been the most important factor in subsequent expansion. In the questionnaire opinions of the website were generally positive but concerns were raised about the use of strong colours and generally unprofessional layout. Ideally the website will be redesigned in 2003 but this may not be practicable. At present it is not considered an urgent priority. The news page was not updated frequently enough in 2002 and we have now rearranged things to hopefully allow the page to be updated more regularly. A number of sections of the website have proved very popular, especially the notorious Alternative Crew Handbook. We estimate the website has been viewed by thousands of McDonalds workers.
Regrettably, a third issue of McSues was not produced in 2002. A number of respondents to the questionnaire indicated they considered McSues to be the best thing about MWR and it was generally considered important that MWR retained its humorous approach. It is therefore vital that 2003 sees a new issue of McSues or some similar material produced. One idea is to develop an online publication not dissimilar to McSues and save limited printing resources for leaflets and stickers.
Leaflets and stickers were produced around October 16th and December 21st actions. Our leaflet for October 16th had an MWR call to action on one side and an international call to action on the other. It has been found that stickers are especially effective in attracting interest.
During 2002, and especially in the days prior to October 16th, people involved with MWR did numerous interviews with mainstream TV, radio and newspapers. These never actually seem to make the news, which may or may not be related to McDonalds’ financial power. In 2002, one positive article did appear in Loaded Magazine. Thankfully, during the year there were a number of articles in the alternative media.
Regrettably, after a series of problems with our PO Box, MWR is temporarily without a postal address. During these problems, some mail has been lost for which we apologise.; It is important this is rectified as soon as possible.
For a time in 2002, regular monthly bulletins were produced. It is now felt that the secretariat should collect news stories from throughout MWR and send bulletins out irregularly- i.e. when sufficient news/ articles have accumulated.
In addition to websites produced by Manchester MWR and Midlands MWR, local leaflets, pisstakes and spoofs were produced n 2002. These are very important and it is hoped that more will follow in 2003.
In 2002, Glasgow MWR was active sending speakers to a number of meetings including ‘McDonalds Project’ organised by the FNV union and held in Volendam, Netherlands; the international solidarity conference held in Essen, Germany; and the European Social Forum in Florence, Italy. Additionally, we have tried to make a range of organisations aware of our activities, receiving a generally positive response. Wherever possible we have attempted to reciprocate solidarity we have received. We are constantly on the look out for other militant workers organisations in the catering industry.
MWR continues to send news to our contact list by e-mail. Respondents to our questionnaire generally felt that the amount of e-mails received was a bout right with a minority indicating they felt the number was too few and nobody finding it excessive. We recognise that at times we have been slow responding to e-mails but hope people will understand a very small group of people deal with a pretty large workload.
MWR is contactable by phone at: +44 07732 531 196. The phone is frequently off as we have to work and sleep, etc. However, messages can always be left.
Struggles in 2002
We think the October 16th action was groundbreaking, ambitious, unprecedented and successful. For a report that covers the events of that day, please see http://www.geocities.com/globaldayofaction. It was interesting to read responses to the questionnaire- a number of McDonalds workers felt the day had been disappointing. This may reflect alack of action at their restaurant, or a failure to recognise the difficulties involved in organising our workforce. However, it does show great ambition. A great deal of preparation went into this day, not because a one off spectacular has great intrinsic value, but because it has been important in making links and building our network. Throughout the 24 hour period as reports of strikes, sabotage, pickets and blockades arrived at first from the Australia and New Zealand, then from Europe and Russia and finally from the US and Canada, a timeline ( http://www.geocities.com/globaldayofaction/latest.html ) was updated with the latest news. In the questionnaire there was enormous support for a repeat of a day like October 16th.
While the October 16th action had been planned over a year in advance, the idea for the December 21st "McGo-Slow" in solidarity with the Argentinean popular rebellion and the anti-McDonalds protesters held in Mexico, was only developed at the European Social Forum in November. By the time the idea had been formulated and approved, or at least not opposed (it received very lukewarm support- perhaps for good reason), by the rest of MWR, we were very short of time. Additionally, we had overlooked the lengthy delays to postage at this time of year, which meant a number of people either didn’t get their leaflets and stickers at all, or got them just before or after December 21st.
Further, the day was simply too abstract- there area too many mental leaps needed to link us working slowly in McDonalds with the popular rebellion in Argentina. Consequently, the go-slow was fairly low key and went ahead at only about eight restaurants. The exercise was not completely futile- appreciative messages were received from Argentina and a few workers have indicated they found the link up inspiring.
MWR has continued to play an advisory and supportive role, responding to hundreds of e-mails regarding, amongst other things, improper pay, illegal hours, totalitarian management and unsafe working conditions. We have assisted a number of local campaigns, as diverse as being allowed unconventional haircuts to removing particularly officious managers, through sending literature and providing advice where possible.
Finally, we would like to thank everyone who has been involved in 2002 whether they are involved with MWR, another rebellious McWorker, or a supporter of our struggle. Together we are strong!
Support the firefighters! A living wage for EVERYONE!
MWR, PO Box 3828, Glasgow, G41 1YU
Post: BM McSpotlight, London, WC1N 3XX, UK
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