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McLibel Support Campaign
P R E S S . R E L E A S E . 14/06/01
McLibel News Update
1. European McLibel case against British government
2. McLibel legal work disrupted
3. Protests against McDonald's continue to spread:
- Various store protests
- McDonald's workers organise and fight back
- Vegetarian Uproar vs McDonald's in USA and India
1. European McLibel case against British government
The McLibel defendants, Helen Steel and Dave Morris are currently in the middle of an application against the British Government at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. They are arguing that unfair and oppressive English defamation laws contravene the European Convention on Human Rights. On May 2nd they served their full submissions and are currently awaiting an interim decision from the European Court. If the Court rules that the applicants' case is admissable then the British Government is expected to mount a strong defence of its notoriously controversial libel laws. There will follow further complex submissions from both sides. A decision on admissibility is expected within the next couple of months.
2. McLibel legal work disruptedThe McLibel legal office has been run from the home in North London of McLibel defendant Dave Morris. Helen Steel lives separately nearby in a single room in a shared house. Haringey Council had threatened in April to evict Mr Morris and his son Charlie, aged 12, along with the McLibel office, on Tuesday 22nd May. The council, who have a statutory duty to house Mr Morris and Charlie, had said they could only offer 'Bed and Breakfast' accommodation and to put all their belongings into sealed storage. They had lived there since Charlie was born. They were determined to stay and mounted a campaign, backed by their local residents' association, to get the council to suspend the eviction. In response to a statement by the McLibel Support Campaign hundreds of emails were sent in from all over the world to Haringey Council calling on them to halt the unnecessary eviction, and to negotiate an acceptable solution to the situation. We have received copies of many of these emails, from London and around the UK, and from people in many countries including in S.America, USA, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, Europe, Scandinavia, Malaysia and Canada. They included messages from people shocked at the threat to the legal work for the European case, concerned for Dave and Charlie's welfare, and opposed to the use of expensive and degrading 'Bed and Breakfast' schemes.
Despite '11th hour' discussions between Mr Morris and the leader of Haringey Council, Councillor George Meehan, the Council refused to call off the eviction threat. On 22nd May over 50 people came to defend Mr Morris's home, mostly neighbours (including local kids with water balloons for the bailiffs) and McLibel supporters (including a samba band right outside the front door). Banners were unfurled and leaflets distributed. About 20 bailiffs and police turned up and after a 2 hour stand off decided to abandon the eviction attempt.
However, Cllr Meehan told Mr Morris later that day that the the Council were still determined to go ahead with the controversial eviction. Bailiffs and police could arrive unannounced at any time over the next days or weeks.
Eventually a deal was agreed, in which Mr Morris was offered a 2 bedroom flat nearby as an emergency measure. He hopes to get permanent rehousing on his estate at the beginning of 2002.
Unfortunately, most of the contents of the McLibel office have had to be put into storage. The McLibel computer was out of action for a week, but is now back - apologies for not issuing this update earlier.
Dave was greatly touched and encouraged by the support he received, and sends his thanks and best wishes to everyone. The struggle continues.
3. Protests against McDonald's continue to spread
USA - At McDonald's Shareholders AGM in Chicago on 17th May, activists with shares grilled members of the Corporation's Board of Directors about the exploitation of store workers, about the exploitation of workers in China to produce 'happy meal' toys for the junk food chain, about the genetic engineering of some foods used in McDonald's products, about animal suffering and about the growing protests against their stores around the world (about which McDonald's Chief Executive, Jack Greenberg replied: that the protests 'are very much on our minds. ... I take these issues seriously. ... We are a convenient target.')
GERMANY - In Munich, Germany, on the 1st May about 60 activists broke away from a Mayday Rally and occupied the biggest McDonalds in Europe, unfurling banners saying 'McExploitation', 'McDeforestation', 'McWorkingclassenemy', 'WorldWideResistance' and 'People before profit'.
PHILLIPINES - In Davao City, on March 10th McDonald's store at Bahada was picketted. A participant reported: 'The people in Davao City was cultured shock, many of them were interested and kept on asking questions that was confusing. We also brought placards saying "NO TO GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOOD", "STOP MAKING FRANKENSTIEN FOOD", "McCRUELTY", McEXPLIOTATION, "PEOPLE NOT PROFIT".'
ISRAEL - In Tel Aviv, May 1st 2001 - May Day was celebrated by Israel by a wide coalition of movements for social justice, environmental responsibility, human rights and animal rights. Actions included vigils in front of banks and financial institutions - but also in front of McDonald's and Burger-King. Animal rights activists later put the heads of slaughtered cows in front of a McDonald's store. 5 people were arrested, protesters blocked the traffic demanding their release, and violent police attacks lead to clashes into the early evening and 5 further arrests. Despite this the sit-in in the road continued until police finally agreed to release all 10 protestors.
McDonald's workers organise and fight back
In Wiesbaden, McDonald's workers have been getting organised. A spokesperson working there explains the situation in February this year (to the paper 'junge Welt'):
Antonio Bareiro: We have built up a good labour organisation here in the Wiesbaden branch office in Mainz street within three years. Almost 80 per cent of the about 70 people, who have worked in the branch office which closed on the 31st December 2000, were organised. This is the point why this branch office got shut down. McDonald said that this branch office is 'ungovernable'. The shut-down had nothing to do with the economic situation, in fact the opposite case. After the numbers, which I have seen, our branch office had a constant sales volume. A thorn in the eye was our organisation and the good cooperation of the different works committees in the area.
NGG labour union secretary Jürgen Hinzer: When we began three years ago to start elections for spokesmen on behalf of the workers, McDonalds tried with all force to prevent these. After that, there was a council nevertheless, than they applied considerable pressure. McDonalds has never put up with having a staff here who looked after their labour rights. When McDonalds didn't make headway with the pressure and sackings, they simply closed this branch office. However, the employees refused to be intimidated.
The courage of this staff is enormous, with colleagues from Latin America, from Africa and Asia. We have demonstrated again and again together. The highlight, up to now, was, that we carried out a declaration in front of the head office in Munich - that hasn't taken place before in the history of McDonalds Germany. We will fight on legal track and apply more pressure politically, too.
Bareiro: We try mainly to sensitise the public and draw attention to the fact how they have treated us there.At the court, specialised in work issues, in Wiesbaden, we have obtained an interim order against the sackings. We will fight for our rights further and try everything.
Hinzer: There is a wide range of people in town, that supports our request. We got an invitation of the French labour union CGT to take part in a demonstration on February 24th in Paris where there is a demonstration because of McDonalds- the first strike at McDonalds in Paris.
Contact: McDonald's Workers Resistance - firstname.lastname@example.org>
On May 24th 2001 faced with a multi-million dollar law suit in the USA
brought by concerned vegetarians, McDonald's finally admitted, that it has
lied to the public for the last 10 years. In 1990 McDonald's had announced
that it would no longer use beef
tallow for cooking its fries, making them acceptable to vegetarians.
However, the company has now conceded that since that time its US fries have
had beef extract flavouring added at the processing stage, before later
being cooked in their stores.
Earlier in May, in Bombay, India, a Hindu group vandalized a McDonald's
restaurant in protest against the use of beef flavoring in the chain's US
French fries. Most of India's Hindus - 85 percent of the population - are
vegetarians. Restaurant customers fled, as members of the Bajrang Dal
charged into the restaurant in Thane, a northeastern Bombay suburb, and
smashed furniture and ceiling lights. In a southern suburb other protestors
shouted slogans and smeared cow dung on the restaurant's mascot.
On May 24th 2001 faced with a multi-million dollar law suit in the USA brought by concerned vegetarians, McDonald's finally admitted, that it has lied to the public for the last 10 years. In 1990 McDonald's had announced that it would no longer use beef tallow for cooking its fries, making them acceptable to vegetarians. However, the company has now conceded that since that time its US fries have had beef extract flavouring added at the processing stage, before later being cooked in their stores.
Earlier in May, in Bombay, India, a Hindu group vandalized a McDonald's restaurant in protest against the use of beef flavoring in the chain's US French fries. Most of India's Hindus - 85 percent of the population - are vegetarians. Restaurant customers fled, as members of the Bajrang Dal charged into the restaurant in Thane, a northeastern Bombay suburb, and smashed furniture and ceiling lights. In a southern suburb other protestors shouted slogans and smeared cow dung on the restaurant's mascot.