witness statement

name: Michael Soriano
section: Employment
for: The Defence
experience: Union organiser and crew member at Wabash store Illinois, U.S.A.


The witness describes events surrounding a drive to form a union, and the reaction from McDonald's management. This includes the tactics management used to try and prevent the formulation of a union.


Not available for this witness

Full cv:
(not available for this witness)

full statement:

State of Illinois

County of Cook


I have worked at McDonalds ever since that particular location opened on April 29, 1977. The manager is Norman Donahue. His supervisor is Lee. Under Norman the following managers work: John, Owen, Harold, James, Booker, Leon and Mark. I don't know the last name for no one I've mentioned so far apart from Norman.

I work from 11 A.M to 6 P.M. At present, I am making $2.80 an hour. I do almost anything in the kitchen, but usually I am working on the grill where the quarter-pounders are cooked.

No one has ever told me not to wear the union button that I have.


Monday January 23 was the first meeting with the union. After I got off work, I was in the dining room with about 10 other members of he crew who were off duty and waiting to go to the union meeting. Phyllis was one of the ones who was with me.

Lee was leaving, and as he left, called me over to the foyer. He told me,"Mike, as long as you've made up your mind, we don't have to provide you with any meeting hall. There's no solicitation on company property."

Before that, Andre Coleman, one of the employees, passed out flyers for a dance his social club was having. On February 3, Tammy passed out handouts for a dance that her club was having, and gave one to Norman. Neither of those employees were told not to solicit.

The next day, Josephine, the union organiser came into the store to ask if the manager would negotiate. At the end of the day, after I'd punched out, I was in the crew room talking to Bryan Curry, Victor, Venus Collins and Duane Brinson about what had hapened at the union meeting. None of us were working at the time. At 6.20, John, one of the managers, told me that my 20 minutes were up.

All summer here has been a rule that an employee is not to be on company premises longer than 20 minutes after he gets off work, but the rule has not been enforced before.

I asked if John was trying to interfere with union activities, and he said that if enforcing company policy interfered with union activities, he guessed he was.

I went upstairs to buy some food, and John came up to me in the line and said he hoped I was getting it to go. I said I was. He followed me out the door, and I saw him talking to members of the crew as I left. Later, two of those crew members, Dean Mason aand Cedric Gordon, told me that John told them if I come back in, they should tell the manager.

On January the 27, I was in the crew room after work. I'd just given union magazine to Gus. I don't know Gus's last name. Possibly Victor was also there.

Harold, one of the managers came into the room and told me,"You've been warned once before about soliciting".

I said I'd just given Gus some reading material. Harold then gave me a definition of what solicitation was, in his eyes, and put up a no-solicitation notice on the wall of the crew room so I wouldn't forget. I later saw he'd put another copy of that notice on the front door.

On Sunday, January 22, I was in the main dining room. Sundays are my days off. I was eating a meal with Sandra Towers, who is also an emloyee. I asked her to sign a card, and I had some cards lying on the table in front of me. John came up and asked me what was happening. I covered the cards with my hand, but John asked,"What have you got there?" He then turned the cards around and read them. He asked if they were for a union, and I said they were. He asked me to tell him about it, saying he had a personal interest in it. I asked him why, as he was a manager. He said he just wanted to know why I thought a manager was needed. I told him I felt a union could get better wages, and guard against the harassment and unnecessary firings that had gone on. I left shortly after that.

On January 19, 1978 at approximately 11:30 am Brooke Brown asked me if I would take a maintenance job. He said he would try to get me $3.50 an hour. He said he wouldn't promise but he would try. He said the hours would be from 4:00 am to 12 noon. I said I would need a day to think about it. Employee Stanley Whitney was present during this conversation.

Approximately 10 to 15 minutes later Lee approached me and asked me about the maintenance job. I told him Brooke had already taked to me about the job. He said he would make it worthwhile for me. I asked him whose job Iwould be taking. He replaced Butler's job because he needed someone to do the work and Butler wasn't keeping up (later I spoke to Derrick Butler about this and he told me he makes $3.00/hr).

On Jan 20th Norman Donahue spoke to me about the maitenance job but I told him I declined the job offer.


On Jan 23rd 1978 the union had a meeting at 5:30 pm at 16 W. Randolph St. I had requested permission to leave work early and the request was granted. As I was about to leave Lee asked me if I had a few minutes and I replied yes. The few minutes turned out to be an hour and 15 minutes longer. We talked in the storage room.

Lee said that he had heard that I was dissatisfied with McDonalds. He mentioned various problems and he asked if I thought that the union was going to be the answer to these problems. I replied yes.

Lee asked why can't they have the new members meet with the owners hash out the problems. I replied I would like to sit down with the owners but over a negotiating table.

Lee said that I was making a serious mistake and that I did not know what I was getting into. I replied that I had considered this very seriously before I brought in a single card.

Lee said that the crew could elect a committee to sit down with managEment. He said he didn't know what the problems were. I replied that we had expressed discontentment from the start of the store. I also said that the only protection we have would be through the union and a contract.

He said that they would take dues out of my check and I replied that I thought it was a good investment and that we could get a better deal through the union. I mentioned that on one occasion he wanted me to have a hair cut immediately while I wanted to wait a week until I got more money.

While this conversation was taking place I recall employees Debra Mills, Dave Anderson and Darnell Ward coming in at various times.

On Jan 24th at approximately 11:30 am Josephine Clark came to the store to request recognition from Donahue. We had previously decided at the union meeting to put on our union buttons at the time the request was made. Everyone with the exception of 4 or 5 employees put on their buttons.


Later in the day Tony Stevens who was wearing a union button clocked out at 3.15pm. Supervisor John asked her what had happened and she replied that she had punched out early. John spoke to Norman and then John came back and gave a one week suspension to Stevens effective Monday Jan 30th. I was present at the time John suspended Stevens.

On the same day I punched out at 6:00pm. At 6:00pm John came into the crew room and told me that my 20 minutes were up and that I would have to leave the premises.(The company had such a policy but it was rarely enforced). Bryan Cummingham was there at the time and he had been off work since 3:00pm.

John said that I had been warned previously by Lee about solicitation. I told him that he was interfering with my union rights. John said that it was company policy that there would be no solicitation and that I had to leave after 20 minutes. He said I have already been there too long. Employees Dwaine Brinson, Victor, Bryan Cummingham and Venus Collins.

John followed me up the stairs and waited while I purchased a 7 Up and then he followed me to the door.

I observed John talking to employees and later employees Dean Mason and Cedric Jordon told me that John had instructed them to report if I stepped on company property.

On Jan 25, 1978 I met with employees Brenda Archie and Debra Mills at the Farland Building. During the conversation Mills advised us to keep the conversation low as she had noticed a fellow who had previously been talking to Brown. I don't know who this fellow was, he was a white male about 40 years old. We left the building and he also came out. Approximately 15 minutes later I went back into the building and he followed me in. I left and he also left the building.


On Jan 29th the company had 2 crew meetings, one at 10:00am and the other at 8:00pm. I attended the 10:00am meeting and there were approximately 30 employees present. Norman introduced 2 fellows from McDonalds Corp. They were James Smith, a field consultant and James Morgan from Personnel.

Prior to the start they passed out an opinion survey consisting of approximately 30 questions. The questions were whether we were satisfied with wage policies, promotion procedures, managers and fellow crew members, to name a few of the questions. Someone asked why this hadn't been done previously and the explanation was that this was a new store, opened only 9 months ago.

Morgan said there were no unions at McDonalds and that unions had tried over 500 times but each time the union lost out. He said they have 4400 stores in the U.S and none have a union.

He explained the procedure, that it was not automatic to simply sign a card and get a union but that it could take 3 months, 6 months or even a year before an election would be held. He said the NIRB has rules against harassment and he could tell us that the company will not harass anyone. He said the union also can't harass people and if anyone has been then they should let management know.

He said a union is like a business, it has to make a profit but that they don't have a product to sell so the money has to come from us. He said the union can waiver initiation fees but they would take out dues. He said dues are like a punishment, they come out of our pay checks even if we have to buy milk for our babies.

He said if we don't want a union, to vote no.

He said they can't make any promises but that we could talk to management and work out our problems.

He said we could tell what kind of Union this is by asking for our card and if they don't return it this would tell us what kind of union it is.

I asked if the Union wins the election, doesn't the Company have to bargain with us. He replied that they would come hard nosed and we would get only what McDonalds gives us.


Brown announced that the Christmas Party would be held on Feb 13th at Ding Bats and that there would be a dance contest with a $25 prize.

John said there would be a basketball team and McDonalds would buy the jerseys. He also said there would be a volleyball team for the girls. The basketball team had previously been discussed and I previously signed up for it 3 times.There also had been a previous sign up sheet for volleyball.

On Feb 7th, '78, the Company posted for a Safety and also a Crew Room Committee and I signed up for both of them.The Company previously did not have such committees. The 1st meeting will be held on Feb 16, 1978.

I have read the above statement consisting of 13 pages, this included, and swear that it is true to the best of my knowledge and belief.

Subscribed and sworn to before me this 13th day of Feb, 1978 in Chicago. Paul Arola, FX-NIRB

I have requested and did receive a copy of this statement.

Michael Soriano

supplementary statement:

This statement is in addition to the affidavit I gave to a board agent on February 13, 1978.

Performance Reviews

When I was hired by the company, I was told by Norman Donahue, the Wabash manager that I would recive a performance review every 3 months, and this review would determine whether or not I received a wage increase.

As best I can recall I received a performance review in either September or October last year. I was paid $2.60 and received a raise of 15 cents, bringing me to $2.75. At that time I was told that I had a great attitude by Ron Kas who interviewed me. At that time he was 1st assistant manager at Wabash. He is now manager at Randolph.

On March 10, 1978, I was given a performance review in the manager's room of the Wabash sore. Lee Essarove, Norman Donahue and Leon Hutchinson were present. Leon did most of the talking.

He stated McDonald's gives periodic raises on how well you do your job and how well you know your job. He said each manager evaluates you and submits their findings. the employer is graded on a scale of 1 to 5.

Norman stated performance reviews would be conducted again in 8 to 10 weeks.

I was told I had been given an overall average of 2.4%, which is high grade, but that my attitude rating had dropped to 4.0 rating.

I asked why the attitude rating was so low. Leon Essagrove said you really don't know what your feeling toward this company and store is. He continued to ask this kind of question for a few moments. Then I was told that I would receive a 10% raise. I was not told when it would become effective.

The interview lasted some 10 to 15 minutes. He then told me to tell Donald Hall to come down to the manager's office when I went up. I did this.

I was told by my co-workers Brian Cunningham that he had received a nickel; Baron Deadwyler told me he had received ten cents; Darlene Johnson said she got fifteen cents; Brenda Archer said she got ten cents; Margo Nance told me she got fifteen cents; denise Strong said she received a nickel; Don Hall said he got a nickel. I know of other employees who received increases by heresay.

Notice Board Information

During the first week of March, as I recall, the management put in two locked glass bulletin boards, both about 4 feet by 5 feet. One bulletin board is placed beside the time clock and the other is in the crewroom in the basement.

A poster board takes up about half of the board by the time clock. On this poster board are three characters in colour at the top of the poster board. On the left is a comic character called Willie Popcorn who is shown whispering to a crew member. On the opposite side is a character called "Deacon". The poster board states "Lay your eyes on Willie Popcorn's eyes".

Willie popcorn is dressed in platform shoes, wide brimmed hat and colourful clothes. the crew member is neatly dressed. The Deacon is dressed in a long black robe, holding a bible in his hand with the scales of justice behind him. On his side, the poster board states "Get the straight talking from the Deacon".

All the characters portrayed are black. Pinned to the upstairs bulletin board is a handwritten notice which states all notices must be cleared by Leon Essagrove.

The bulletin board downstairs carries the weekly schedule, also a schedule for training classes, and on this date a request from Norman to see him about a crew decorating committee.

The upstairs bulletin board shows Willie popcorn talking to a crew member and the Deacon answering.

Various notes are put up such as this one which I copied part of on March 6. It says:

"Attention all Crew" "We would like to put a lot of the rumour, questions and general scuttle butt into proper perspective. Since this union has attempted to get into the store, we have noticed many crew are confused about what is fact and what is fantasy. In an effort to clarify some of the buzz that is going on in your mind-"

I was not allowed to finish copying this notice as Leon Hutchinson saw me and told me to stop copying it. I asked 'Why?', and he said he doesn't want me to.

The company called a compulsory meeting for 8pm on Sunday March 12 for all crew members.

A note had Willie Popcorn saying "Hey don't bother going to the crew meeting this Sunday. Find something else to do".

The Deacon's note said "Are you kidding? The meeting is going to be full of good things - like skit put on by the owners. Explanation of the World Famous McBucks program and maybe even a song and dance by Lee Essagrove and myself. Should be fun".

Union or no union, management will always be able to hire and fire.

Another note had Willie popcorn saying "Hey baby, since you signed the union card, you're in the union".

The Deacon answers "That's not true, Because you signed a card doesn't mean you have to join the union or even vote for the union. in fact you can ask for your card back.

Willie Popcorn; "You know this union can guarantee you job security"

The Deacon, "Wrong buffalo breath. Union or no union, managment will always be able to hire and fire. Unions can't guarantee anything".

Work Schedule

There are now 132 people on the work schedule (as of this week) but only 55 people showed up for the compulsory Sunday 8pm meeting March 12.

Norman Donahue chaired the meeting . Steve Wegs, a new manager Ernest and another new manager Victor intoduced themselves as new managers.

Norman spoke about the bowling team, and stated the opinion survey we had been asked to fill out at a previous meeting had been received by McDonald's. He said some of the problems which showed up in the opinion survey are being worked on.

He said - you notice we moved the lockers out of the crew room so you have more space

He said 'no-shows' have increased and they are hiring new people. He spoke about a lack of teamwork and lack of training. He said Steve Wegs will be in charge of the new training programme which will be held in March and April.


The McBingo card was explained and steve Wegs held up a poster displaying watches, basket balls, TV's and radios. We were told every time we attend a traing class we complete a square and we will receive the appropriate number of McBucks. When the bingo card is complete up, down or across, we will be given 25 McBucks.

If we complete the whole card we will receive 125 McBucks. They explained the McBucks are as good as real money and will be used during the McBucks Auction scheduled for April 16.

Lee Essarove said Norman Donahue will auction off loads and loads of good stuff.

Lee Essarove told us we will be seeing more people who trained at Randolph working in the Wabash store. He said they had finished hiring the week before. He said 'You'll see a lot of new faces". He said the reason they had not done things like the sporting events and the McBingo Auction was because they had opened 4 new stores in 1977, and they never had the chance.

Union Clarification

He said he wanted to clarify questions that have come up about the union and the organising campaign. He said hearings were conducted by the NLRB and the Company people attended. He said the Company testified for the store.

He said Mike Soriano, Brian Cunningham and Baron Deadwyler testified for the Union and against the store. He said he felt inappropriate to hold an election at one store - that an election should be at all the stores or none

He said the NLRB is studying the testimony and that in 2 or 3 weeks they will decide. He said "they have received reports from crew members that pressure is being put on them to sign for the Union". He said if anyone feels they have been hassled they should go to the meeting and the management would protect their rights

No solicitation....and we'll enforce this.

He continued stating - As you know we have no solicitation in this store, and we'll enforce this. Solicitation for anything is prohibited. He drew attention to the bulletin boards. He also announced that some 6 to 8 people will be approached to become crew chiefs and that of this number 2 - 3 - or 4 will be selected. He did not name the people.

He announced there will be an Easter feaster for working on Easter Sunday. He said they are bringing in a turkey for the crew as a bonus, and anyone who wanted to bring food from home could do so. He said he knows Easter is a religious holiday, and the Company will try to see that everyone has enough time off over Easter to be able to attend church services.

He said McDonalds will be running more contests in the future, and may even rent the McDonalds bus to take crew' members on tours of bun and meat factories.

date signed: Feb 13th 1978
status: Appeared in court
references: Not applicable/available

exhibits: exhibits available here

transcripts of court appearances:

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