Strike at McDonalds, Paris, August 2004

Submitted by Steven. on November 22, 2006

A brief account and information about a CGT union strike at the McDonald’s Place d’Italie branch in Paris in 2004.

This strike at the McDonald’s Place d’Italie branch in Paris did not develop the kind of dynamic as regards the pubic, as did the 2002/2003 McDonald’s strikes. Possibly partly due to the fact that there was no independent solidarity committee. There has been a lot of discussion about the role of these solidarity committees and the real meaning of the series of strikes in fast-food outlets and other small businesses in Paris (Frog Pub, Fnac, Pizza Hut, Arcade). Most of the discussions subsided again fairly quickly [Echanges no. 100/102 -].

It has been emphasized that the strikes were mostly lead by young migrants who had not had strike experience before, and in a sector that had previously been seen as an unlikely place for collective forms of struggle: small workplaces, of a few people dishing out personal services. The solidarity committees have been criticized for outnumbering the strikers at the picket lines and for being more active than them, and that through their media work the strikes’ actual meaning was inflated thereby creating further myths.

This particular strike began at the end of august, after a CGT rep who worked in the Place d’Italie branch, was fired. One of the reasons given was that he had eaten at KFC (another fast food chain) round the corner during his break. That was the trigger for the strike, but there were other demands: 12 percent wage increase, bonuses for time with the company, recognition of the right to organise a union, better work conditions and better hygiene standards.

At the picket line there was the following scene: the strikers were only achieving a partial strike - i.e. a few CGT functionaries and a few workers were standing in front of the restaurant, there was quite a few people eating inside - someone at almost every table. Many people passing by stopped for a moment and took a leaflet. 1,500 signatures were collected in their petition on the first day. A few security guards and the manager stood at the door and people were not prevented from entering the “restaurant”, no one was spoken to offensively. At the next McDonald’s branch 5 minutes away, there was no sign of the strike.

On the first Saturday of the strike there was a rally at the branch. About 40 people were there, most of them with draped with the insignia of their organization (LCR , a Trotskyist party, CGT, one of the major French unions, les Alternatifs, green-Trotskyist Alliance). Two Communist Party local councillors came with a sash of the national flag. The door was blocked for about half an hour. A CGT leaflet stated “The hour at which Paris celebrates its 60th anniversary of liberation and the men and women of the republic honour the role of the unions in the liberation struggle, we should not allow certain multi-national companies to oppress us today, just as the bosses did then with shameless alliances so well known to all of us.”

The other things that the CGT goes on and on about are mostly the democratic “right to the free choice of food”, and the fact that a customer saw a mouse running about in the branch. On the following Monday the strike came to an end - or a “successful conclusion” as the CGT presented it. Results: McDonald’s want to take care of the hygiene and think twice before sacking workers. None of the other demands were fulfilled. Similar conflicts, usually where the sacking of a union rep is the trigger, include the RUC restaurant chain in Paris, where Tamil cooks were on strike in October and at Carrefour (big supermarket chain) in Marseille, after a worker was arrested after a supposed theft.