My experience of organising fast food workers.
By BFAWU (Bakers union) organiser Gareth Lane.
For the last six month I’ve been working as a community Organiser for the BFAWU.
My job is to organise fast food workers, Bar workers, and Coffee shop workers into the union. This involves me identifying workplaces in Community’s located across the North of England.
I have made contact and spoken to hundreds of fast food workers in McDonalds, KFC, Costa, Starbucks, If it sells food on a major high street, chances are I’ve been there.
One lesson I’ve learned that stands out above any of the many lessons I have learned in this time is, Fast food workers are hero’s
I’ve met the single mum juggling to find childcare, and hang onto hours despite all the difficulties and hardships of running a family on her own. A Middle aged woman fitting in as many hours as possible whilst being a carer for her elderly parent.
The sole bread winner who holds down three jobs working 60 hours a week, The wide eyed youngster who’s first job it is, Who’s sure there’s a better life just waiting round the corner, to the university graduate who thought that working in fast food would see them through university but find themselves still there Five years after graduation.
Every fast food worker has a story, Every fast food worker is a Hero, Every Fast Food worker Gets up every day to work in a job that society undervalues, To be treated with less than dignity by their employer,
Fast food workers have taught me that working in fast food is a hard skillful job,
It’s a real skill to learn to deal with bullying and aggressive bosses, who hold the power of deciding the weeks rota and what hours you work, The boss can decide if you have the heating on that week or weather you get the kids the new shoes they need, All with the stroke of a pen.
McDonald’s with its zero hour contracts or KFC with its four hour contracts will claim that workers enjoy the flexibility of zero hour contracts and can organise their work to fit into their life when in reality the opposite is true, Life is impossible to organise on an ever changing pattern of hours, The insecurity of the work keeps you a pay packet from poverty, and forces you to tow the Mcline.
Generally young workers are discriminated against because of age under 18s get paid less, under 21s get paid less and soon under the Tories new minimum wage under 25s will get paid less. All workers in this industry should be paid the same, regardless of age, Food is not cheaper, There is no subsidy for rents if your under 25, there is no under 25s rate in Mothercare for cots and cradles so why should you be paid less.
The job itself is hard and dangerous next time you meet a fast food worker look at their arms and hands likelihood is they are covered in burns and bruises as a result of poorly maintained machinery, lack of health and safety and being forced to work to machine standard speed.
In a busy fast food workplace you hit the ground running its often a tense and pressured environment where every second counts as management attempts to squeeze as much work from you as possible in order to meet orders, workplaces are often understaffed meaning workers often forfeit break times in order to help struggling work mates,
Fast food workers as trade unionists,
The BFAWU is developing some incredible young trade unionists, young workers that understand the level of exploitation they are facing, Young workers that understand that by building a democratic union at the grass roots they can organise to bring real victories in their own workplaces and support others in their workplace,
Our model has been inspired by the fight for 15 in the USA. We are using tried and tested organising techniques from the campaign in the united states and the tradition of the Bakers Union
In this sense we build up our activist base by picking off small victories and building confidence amongst members and supporters, Whilst at the same time offering hope in the possibilities of a wage that’s life changing and deserved.
Our aim is to end inequality to raise wages and improve the conditions of those who work in this industry.
The BFAWU Says £10 an hour now.
Join us in the fight for dignity in work.
Watch the video ‘Demo at McDonalds’ here
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