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29 August 2014
Fast Food Rights: 'Get the lady in the pink T-shirt out of here!
On 28 August, activists from groups including the BFAWU union and Youth Fight for Jobs took part in a Fast Food Rights day of action. Here are reports from the day.
"Can someone get the lady in the pink T-shirt out of here!" was the response of the McDonald's supervisor as we handed out Fast Food Rights leaflets encouraging their staff to join the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU).
Our bright pink T-shirts emblazoned with "Raise the minimum wage to £10 Now!" were certainly distinctive.
As we were ushered out the supervisor told surrounding staff they were not allowed to join a union. I stopped in my tracks and politely, but loudly, told the surrounding workers that they were legally entitled to join a union!
On our Fast Food Rights stall outside McDonald's we also received a lot of attention. Loads of workers, young and old, approached us.
Many of them were on zero hours themselves and told how it was impossible to budget when you didn't know how much was coming in week by week.
One woman asked: "How have they been able to get away with this?" Almost every worker she knew was on a zero-hour contract.
Others told how they'd been forced to give up jobs, and go back onto benefits, because they were being offered so few hours.
Even those who worked plenty of hours found zero-hour contracts extremely difficult when it came to holidays or if they were ill, as they then received no wages.
Once the stall was finished I had some shopping to do. In two stores I was stopped by staff who liked my T-shirt and agreed that they should be getting £10 an hour and that zero-hour contracts should be banned.
A Fast Food Rights stall was held in Bradford on Thursday 28 August as part of a national campaign. It was a good vibrant stall, nothing unusual in that maybe.
However, what was unusual is that we were joined by both a manager and a deputy manager from shops in the same street.
I cannot remember a manager ever coming out on his lunch break and selling the Socialist paper on the stall, leafleting people and generally being terrific help, taking a paper back into his shop. But these two young managers certainly did!
On 28 August, there were protests in eight towns and cities across Yorkshire, coinciding with a US fast food workers' strike for secure jobs, decent conditions and a $15 an hour minimum wage.
Where we ran stalls, they were often mobbed by people agreeing with our demands to scrap zero-hour contracts and to raise the UK minimum wage to £10 an hour.
Five local radio stations interviewed Youth Fight for Jobs and BFAWU bakers' union activist. Several local newspapers covered the protests, including in Huddersfield, Pontefract and York.
In Grimsby, in the town's first Fast Food Rights action, activists split up and went in cars to leaflet outlying McDonald's stores, before heading back into the city centre to leaflet McDonald's there.
Sheffield Fast Food Rights activists heard about zero-hour horror stories, including one lift engineer doing 60 hour weeks with no overtime. A woman told them her son was on a zero-hour contract and hadn't had any work in four weeks!
In Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield, activists had several conversations with McDonald's staff, as well as other nearby fast food workplaces including KFC and Costa Coffee.
Iain Dalton, Yorkshire YFJ
Youth Fight for Jobs supporters took part in protests across the region against zero-hours contracts and for a £10 an hour minimum wage.
In Derby, Nottingham and Mansfield we campaigned outside McDonalds stores and got lots of support from passers-by.
Many young people spoke to us about how they face uncertainty every week as they do not know how many hours they will be given.
Care workers and cleaners at hospitals told how they couldn't afford to live on minimum wage, including one worker in his 30s who had to move back home with his parents.
People are angry and fed up. Those that we spoke to were pleased that trade unions were starting to take up the issues that affect them.
It is important to now build on the campaign and to build a movement that the bosses have to listen to!
People told us how they and their families were struggling to make ends meet, some doing more than one job, others being paid barely above the minimum wage. Our call for £10.00 per hour really struck a chord.
On 20 August, three of us leafleted near Brixton tube station in south west London. What has historically been a working class part of London is now seeing up market stores move in. But these stores don't pay wages that meant the workers could afford their luxury products!
We went into several fast food restaurants including McDonald's and KFC. Several workers responded to our call for a £10 an hour minimum wage as well as fighting against zero-hour contracts.
We went into several stores. Employees at the Body Shop expressed interest and agreed with the need to fight for a £10 minimum wage.
Walking around one of the stores, we could see several employees reading our leaflets. Getting the word out there and making workers aware that there is a group out there they can join to really fight for their interests is the first step in building a mass movement.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 29 August 2014 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.
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