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Monday, May 29, 2006

UNITE Enlists International Support Against McD's

The significance of Matt MCCarten's UNITE union and its battle against the fast food giant, should not be under-estimated.

McDonalds has long been targeted by the international left for several reasons.

The Golden Arches are one of the great symbols of capitalism. McDonalds teaches capitalist systems and work ethic to hundreds of thousands of young people world wide. The left hate that. McDonalds has consistently resisted attempts to unionise its staff. If unionists in NZ could "break" McDonalds it would set a precedent for unionists and socialists all over the globe.

Therefore it is not surprising that UNITE activists have been visiting foreign trade unionists to drum up support.

I quote from UNITE organiser and Socialist Workers Oganisation member, Joe Carolan's Blog Anticapitaliste

"Our union is a small, activist union that recently led the world's first strikes at Starbucks, and has since won a substantial pay deal and improved conditions for our members there and at KFC and Pizza Hut as well. Details of our campaign and victory can be found at our campaign website,

However, we are also faced with a major challenge in the next few months with a concerted offensive from union busters McDonalds, who have threatened to "smash the Unite union". Our members and delegates have experienced severe victimisation and bullying, many workplace leaders having their hours cut, rosters changed to unsocial hours, or asked to find another job "if you don't like it here". Recently, they employed the services of a Kiwi arch union buster,who embarked on a policy of paying non union members more money in an attempt to destroy our membership on the shop floor.

Our members in McDonalds, bouyed by the victories we won at KFC, Starbucks and Pizza Hut, have now resolved to fight hard in the next few months. At the moment we have over 900 members in McDonalds stores in Auckland alone. But most of these trade unionists are on minimum wage, and are highly vulnerable. In this David and Goliath battle, they know full well they stand against a powerful multinational with billions of dollars in reserve, and a media, legal and advertising corps per excellence.

However, we also know that there are millions of trade unionists around the world who will be inspired if we can win this fight against McDonalds. It will truly inspire workers in so called "McJobs" everywhere that change is possible. As such, key Unite organisers have gone to the corners of the earth to spread the
word- Senior Organiser Mike Treen to Venezuela and Bolivia, and Education Officer Chrissy Holland to the LaborNotes Conference in Detroit. I am visiting interested trade unions and campaign groups in both Ireland and Britain, and can be contacted at if you would like to meet up.

I am in the UK meeting General Secretary Mark Serwotka of the Public and Commerical Services Union on May 16th, and will be meeting other trade union leaders and groups until the 18th of May. I have a short 15 minute compilation of rushes from an upcoming documentary being made about the SupersizeMyPay.Com campaign to organise the unorganised in the fast food industries. The campaign has been colourful and energetic, and we want to spread its message through union websites, publications and branches."

I have already written here about Mike Treen's visit to Chavez's Venezuela and his meetings with Marxist-Leninist unionists. It is safe to assume that Bolivia was chosen because its new president, the radical Evo Morales is a close ally of Chavez.
Treen traveled with members of the Australian Socialist Alliance which is led by the Australian Democratic Perspective and the International Socialists (sister party of the British Socialist Workers Party and NZ's Socialist Workers Organisation).

LaborNotes is a militant trade union journal based in Detroit. It has close ties to the US based Trotsyite group, Solidarity, which is in turn, very close to the Australian Marxist-Leninists of the Democratic Socialist Perspective. The DSP is allied to NZ's Workers Charter Movement, Socialist Workers Organisation and UNITE.

Mark Serwotka is General Secretary of the 280,000 strong, British trade union for civil servants, the Public and Commercial Services Union. Serwotka was a member of Socialist Organiser in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and later a Socialist Alliance supporter. He then became the most prominent trade unionist to support the left-wing political party Respect. In the run-up to the 2005 UK general election he personally endorsed several Respect candidates.

Respect is led the British Socialist Workers Party, radical Muslims and the infamous George Galloway.

As UNITE leader Matt McCarten recently stated.

Our union, Unite, has sent three of our leading organisers to wealthier parts of the world to raise money from other trade unions for our upcoming campaign to win a union employment agreement for McDonald's workers.

Will money from Venezuela, Bolivia, the UK, Eire and the USA be channelled into bringing our local McDonalds franchisees to their knees? Are kiwi teens about to become the "patty in the burger" of an industrial battle of international significance?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder who the 'Kiwi arch union buster' is?

I wonder if they are making thing up?.


6:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you claim to defend freedom why not defend teh freedom of these workers to join a union?

8:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Trev, I thought you might be interested in this if you haven't seen it:

I wonder if they're linked.

9:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you glad to see Ooestermann gone from Unite Trev?

8:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this further confirms the links between compulsory student associations and trade unions.

Carolan was active in the 2000 campaign to restore compulsory membership at Waikato Uni.

And the latest NBR reports that "McCarten has been busy signing up support from the Council of Trade Unions and university students' associations, among others."

So National and ACT voting students may well find that the groups which claim to represent their views are also supporting Unite.

National and ACT voting students should ask if any of their money is going to Unite as well.

9:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And that's the reason why I strongly support VSU.


10:14 AM  
Blogger Sonic said...

"So National and ACT voting students may well find that the groups which claim to represent their views are also supporting Unite"

Since many students work in low paid jobs in places like MacDonalds it is a perfectly reasonable issue for an SU to be involved with.

If you are unhappy stand for election and change it.

11:08 AM  
Blogger Sonic said...

So how much does the average student pay for the SU?

Would I be correct in thinking it is around $0.00?

12:17 PM  
Blogger Sonic said...

So how much does the average student pay for the SU?

Would I be correct in thinking it is around $0.00?

12:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sonic - the average would be around $90-$100. Massey Palm Nth is the most expensive at $180.

But the price is irrelevant. You and others might think students benefit from membership of an association, but other students don't think they gain any benefit.

The only fair way to distinguish between the two positions is to allow individual students to decide for themselves.

that way you can join an association but others who don't want to join aren't forced to do so.

12:40 PM  
Blogger Sonic said...

I agree that people can opt out, as long as they then accept they get no representation or access to SU facilities.

So now we agree, perhaps these evil UNITE types could tell more of our kids to be like this paragon!,2106,3681290a6530,00.html

12:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm under your bed trev................

12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Students can't currently opt out. Conscientious objection is a joke. We need a system where individuals decide to opt in - ie voluntary membership.

As for representation, National and Act voting students would be delighted not to be "represented" by student associations which push Greens policy and support Unite.

What particular SU facilities are you talking about anyway?

12:59 PM  
Blogger Trevor Loudon said...

Squirrel.Never said people couldn't join unions. Libertarians people should be able to stupid or destructive things with their own lives and money. They should also be prepared to be criticised and ostracised for it.

Anon Yes I see anarchistOosterman has flown the coop. Off looking for his clothes no doubt.

Rooster wondered what the stench was.

1:46 PM  
Blogger Trevor Loudon said...

Exocet They're referrining to consultant Tony Teasdale. Don't know anything about him.

2:29 PM  
Blogger Sonic said...

"people should be able to stupid or destructive things with their own lives and money. They should also be prepared to be criticised and ostracised for it."

Have we not had enough on Rodney and Dancin?


2:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

C'mon Sonic - what specific student union facilities are you talking about, and at which institution?

2:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

capitalists should be able to stupid or destructive things with their own lives and money. They should also be prepared to be criticised and ostracised for it. and thats exactly what unite are doing kicking up a fuss about poverty wages :)

8:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where are you Sonic?

What student union facilities?

10:50 PM  
Blogger Trevor Loudon said...

Woops. Missed out a word. Shoud have been "libertarians beleive people should be able to...."

1:32 AM  
Blogger Sonic said...

Campaining against low pay (do try and read the articles you are commenting on mate)

11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sonic - are you arguing that "campaining (sic) against low pay" is a 'facility' provided by student associations? Surely that type of campaigning is a political activity and is therefore a form of representation (even though it misrepresents the views of some students).

Specifically, what facilities or services are you suggesting non-members should be denied access to? Please specify the insitution you're referring to.

11:25 AM  
Blogger Sonic said...

So are you trying to say that representation is not a service/facility provided by the SU then?

I must say you seem quite confused.

1:55 PM  
Blogger Sonic said...

Here you go Anon

AUSA Services

2:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No confusion here Sonic.

When asked to justify compulsory membership associations say they provide representation AND services.

By representation they mean things like sitting on council and committees, speaking to the media, organising protests etc

By services they mean things like student magazines and radio, SJS, entertainment, phones, photocopying, club grants etc

Associations tend to draw a distinction between representation and services, but I agree with you that per se representation is merely another service you would expect to receive when you join what is purportedly a representative organisation.

The question is whether the students forced to pay for this 'representation' actually want it. The only fair and accurate way to determine that is to allow individual students to decide whether or not they join.

As for your list of AUSA services, do you realise AUSA is a voluntary association?

Also, you couldn't realistically restrict non-members from gaining access to or benefits from the following AUSA services:
bFM, cafeterias, events, market days, Shadows and Bar None, University Book Shop and SJS (mainly taxpayer funded).

Therefore your argument about preventing non-members from gaining access to association services wouldn’t be applicable to these activities.

Sonic, if an organisation claims to represent a person, do you think that person should be able to decide whether or not they join the organisation?

4:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wasn't McDs found guilty of exploiting workers (and cruelty to animals) in the McLibel trial?

4:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For those wondering, Tony Teasdale is an employment lawyer who is negoiating with Unite on behalf of McDonalds, I heard he was a union organiser before going over to the dark side, but have no idea if thats true.
Other than that all I know is that he seems to be a bit of a loose cannon; a meeting between him and Unite had to be called off after he assulted a journalist

5:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh and about the Mclibel trial anon.,
McDonalds wasn't found guilty of anything because they weren't on trail, the ones on trail were the two activists who distributed a pamphlet critical of McDonalds, the judge ruled in favour of McDonalds as the activists couldn't prove all the things in the pamphlet, however the judge did note that McDonalds did endanger the health of their workers, were "antipathetic" toward unionisation and paid low wages.

5:20 PM  
Blogger Sonic said...

"Also, you couldn't realistically restrict non-members from gaining access to or benefits from the following AUSA services"

Are you some sort of bloody communist? if they don't pay they don't get access, as simple as that.

No such thing as a free lunch in a market economy mate, and no more cheap beer for bludgers who won't pay their fair share!

9:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

take a breath Sonic.

You'll note I said there's no realistic way to prevent non-members gaining access to these services.

Imagine a compulsory student association owns and subsidises a bar (I don't think there are many of these in NZ). Now imagine that membership of the association becomes voluntary. Membership will drop as all students are no longer forced to join and the fee will drop because it'll need to be at a level which members will pay voluntarily.

The bulk of fee income will then be used to fund the association's core functions. The association will therefore stop subsidising a bar and will expect it to become like other bars ie funding itself through the sale of drinks and a door charge. (Unless there's special entertainment student bars won't charge an entry fee).

The bar will therefore want to maximise drinks sales so won't restrict entry to members only.

It's simple economics.

But you have to ask why, under compulsory membership, all students should be forced to subsidise cheap beer for a much smaller number of students.

Sonic, if an organisation claims to represent a person, do you think that person should be able to decide whether or not they join the organisation?

2:53 PM  
Blogger Trevor Loudon said...

That's capitalism for you Sonic. Let people create things and they benevolently share them with others. capitalism creates wealth, benevolence and generosity. Socialism creates scarcity, meanness and jealousy.

3:05 PM  
Blogger Sonic said...

I see you AVT guys don't know very much about the economic and social system you promote.

"That's capitalism for you Sonic. Let people create things and they benevolently share them with others"

So now that BMW have created a nice new car do you think they will "benevolently share" it with me? or will they instead demand a large sum of money?

I wish it was true of capitalism, I could go to New World and ask them to share a large bottle of wine with me.


Anon, I've said it before, anyone should have the right to join or not join, and the organisation has the right to withdraw services for non-members. I do not really see what we are disagreeing about?

3:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sonic - thanks for answering. I agree with your position and I'm pleased to hear you support voluntary membership.

Your statement that people should "have the right to join or not join" is a positive progression from your earlier position where you said students could opt out.

Supporters of compulsory often adopt the 'opt out' line, knowing that students are 'in' before they can opt 'out', and that opting out is next to impossible.

But pleased we agree on voluntary.

(btw i didn't call you an idiot above - that was some other anonymous.)

4:13 PM  
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2:42 AM  

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