A small group of McDonald's workers has today made history.
Forty of them, in two McDonald's restaurants in Cambridge and Crayford, south east London, have voted to stage the first ever strike in Britain in the history of this fast food multinational.
By a whopping 96% in the ballot, conducted by the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU).
They are striking against bullying; cuts to their hours that has left some of them unable to pay the rent, leading to the loss of their home; and against zero hours contracts, for a £10-an-hour wage, with union recognition.
Braving the Bullyboy Bosses
Imagine the bravery of these workers. Small in number, but incredibly courageous, considering the vicious anti-union record of McDonald's. Living on the derisory national minimum wage, with no nest eggs to fall back on, but prepared to walk out on strike for justice, decent wages and union rights. Striking against bullying and cuts to hours which they regard as punishment for joining a union.
They deserve our unqualified, active solidarity. Including donations to the BFAWU union's strike fund, via...
Zero Hours Contracts Hell
This strike hasn't dropped out of a clear blue sky, however.
It's the result of years of being underpaid, undervalued, harassed, treated without dignity. And the insecurity and poverty pay that go together like burgers and chips under the use of the infamous zero hours contracts. Contracts which remain despite recent promises - under trade union campaign pressure - to concede more secure hours.
With over 90% of McD's workers on them, the fabulously wealthy multinational can dish out Big Mac starvation wages, preying on the fear and insecurity that go with the hell of zero hours contracts.
The Fight for $15
From the opposite side of the class divide, these workers have also been inspired to take action by the heroic struggles of workers across the opposite side of the Atlantic. Strikes, pickets, demos and political campaigning around the Fight for $15 also started out with a tiny minority of McDonald's workers going out on strike - in New York City, back in November 2012.
As I explain in more graphic detail in Break the Chains, this movement has won massive breakthroughs in several cities and states, with over ten million workers now on the road towards $15-an-hour! Workers primarily in fast food and retail, (but also other low-paid sectors), challenging the claims in the UK that "it'll never happen in the likes of retail", which some of us face from union leaders as well as company bosses.
A Million Times More
Contrary to the squeals of anguish from the top bosses of McDonald's, they can easily afford $15 now, or its equivalent £10 now. After all, their Chief Executive Officer, Steve Easterbrook, just awarded himself almost double the annual income he scraped by on in 2015 - now a modest $15.4million!
McDonald's condemn the unions and their members for fighting for $15 whilst this corporate dictator is on over a million hours' worth that rate. The reason they ferociously resist unionisation of 'their' workers, whether in the US or UK, is plain for all to spot: the right to be in a union is the only guaranteed means to prevent bullying, end zero hours contracts, and win £10-an-hour. All of which would curb the multinational's insatiable hunger for profit!
£10 Now! and a 16-hour Minimum Contract
It's to the eternal credit of the Bakers' union that they've turned fine words into active deeds - unlike, unfortunately, the leadership of too many other unions.
The BFAWU moved the motion for "a £10 minimum wage for all workers", way back three years ago at the September 2014 TUC congress. It was passed - unanimously!
To their shame, many union leaderships have done nothing in the three years since to actively pursue this policy.
The SSP has fought for action within our own unions for £10 now, alongside relentless campaigning on the streets for an immediate £10 for all over 16. In fact that's been our central demand since September 2014 - not the welcome, but feeble, promise of £10 in 2020 (and then only for workers over 18), recently pledged by Jeremy Corbyn's Labour.
The SSP has also consistently called for a total ban on all zero hours contracts, and pioneered the policy of a legally guaranteed minimum 16-hours-a-week contract for all part-time workers, except where a worker requests lesser hours, in the presence of their union rep.
The BFAWU have conducted the Hungry for Justice campaign among fast food workers, demanding "£10 and a union". That's what has emboldened these workers to throw down the gauntlet, striking against a multinational.
Solidarity With the Strikers
Readers should send messages and donations to these brave McDonald's strikers, and help fan a spark into a flame across the UK. A movement that can hopefully help erase the curse of poverty pay, zero hours contracts and bully-boy bosses getting away with it in the absence of organised union rights.
Stand up for these brave McDonald's strikers. Demand £10 and a union, secure jobs and an end to bullying.