Owen Espley

Fast food shutdown

Owen Espley
Fast food shutdown

ON 4TH OCTOBER 2018 there was an historic co-ordinated strike of hospitality workers. It was named “Fast Food Shutdown 4-10” (#FFS410). Workers in hospitality and food couriers in the gig economy took action across the UK to demand an end to poverty wages and for their right to a union to be respected. Initially, two unions - the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) and Unite - called co-ordinated strikes of workers at Wetherspoons, McDonald’s and TGI Fridays.

Following the announcement, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) Couriers Network called a strike of Uber Eats and Deliveroo couriers in Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, London, Newcastle, Plymouth and Southampton. This call out was then supported by IWGB (Independent Workers of Great Britain) and GMB. As Lauren McCourt, a leading McStriker, said: “It’s about time the workers who make the food and the workers who deliver it came together and fought together…Your fight is our fight.”

With five unions and a day of action across the country, supported by War on Want, 4th October was to mark a new watershed in precarious workers taking action. It built on the first McStrike in September 2017 when workers at two McDonald’s branches went on strike, and on 1st May (international workers’ day) when five McDonald’s branches went on strike. This time, Wetherspoons and TGI Fridays workers joined the action as well.

A dramatic midnight walk-out in Brighton kicked off a national day of action against low wages, precarious conditions and the lack of union recognition. Workers walked out to be greeted by their colleagues amidst chants of “We will win.”

A morning picket outside McDonald’s in Brixton gained local and international support. Fast food workers from four continents had come to London to show solidarity and they demonstrated the international nature of workers organising against these highly profitable multinational companies.

Demonstrations took place around the world on the same day as well as US fast food workers who were striking at the same time in the “Fight for $15.”

At 11am, striking workers from McDonald’s TGI Fridays and Wetherspoons came together for a rally in Leicester Square, the heart of the UK’s hospitality industry. There, Frances O’Grady and John McDonnell spoke alongside workers taking industrial action. John expressed the “100% support” of the Labour Party.

Women workers from each employer addressed the crowd and were joined by an Uber Eats courier representing the IWW Couriers Network strike of delivery riders. Uber’s UK headquarters in Aldgate, London, received a surprise visit at lunch time as Uber Eats couriers, Uber drivers, and supporters from IWGB and IWW occupied their main office with chants including “Uber, Uber you can't hide, we can see your greedy side” and “Five pound per drop or the work will stop.”

In the evening, the strikes of Uber Eats and Deliveroo riders in cities across the UK came to the fore. Cardiff, Bristol, Newcastle and Glasgow had significant mobilisations, with local trade unionists and Momentum groups coming to support striking couriers.

Wetherspoons workers in Brighton held a rally with local MP Caroline Lucas and a musician who had written a song about them. As striking workers’ words hit the media throughout the day, workers who recognised the conditions they described as their own got in touch with the unions involved to say they too were ready to join the fight. With widespread public support and media attention helping to build workers’ confidence, the third and largest McStrike demonstrated that a new generation of workers are starting to realise the power they have when they get organised and take action.

War on Want/McStrike