McStrikers Explain Why They're Refusing to Work

"I'm juggling debt with each cheque, it's not a life."
mcdonald's strike london
All photos by the author. 

"Let's put Boris on a zero-hour contract!" was one of the chants at yesterday's strike by McDonald's staff in south-west London. Led by the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), workers from six south London branches took their protest from Wandsworth to Downing Street, to hand a letter of their demands to Boris Johnson.

Those demands include: a £15 hourly rate; an end to minimum wage youth rates; the choice of guaranteed hours of up to 40 hours per week; notice of shifts four weeks in advance; recognition of the BFAWU; and to be treated with respect and dignity at work.


Labour MPs were out in force too, with John McDonnell, Keir Starmer, Bell Ribeiro-Addy (who replaced the fleeing Chuka Umunna as the Labour candidate for Streatham) and Battersea's candidate Marsha de Cordova all giving speeches. Jeremy Corbyn also expressed support for the strike via Twitter.

Here's what the strikers had to say.


mcdonald's strike lewis baker

"It's my fourth time going on strike against McDonald's. I think it's time that McDonald's start listening to their profit-makers, us, their employees. It's time for a change. McDonald’s needs to listen to our demands: £15 an hour, a union and fixed contracts. We're not asking the world of a company that makes millions. I don't want to have to keep striking, but I will until we get what we need.

"The first time we went on strike was 2017. They listened a little, and conditions improved a bit, but not enough changed. It's been really important to maintain a union presence since then – it brings the power back, even if only slightly. It’ll be better to have a recognised presence."


mcdonald's strike

"I've come from Houston, Texas for this. I'm striking to support the UK workers, and because everybody deserves a real living wage – £15 an hour, along with a union. I work as a McDonald's employee in Houston. It's the same there – we're fighting for more employment benefits; for a union that spans all the American sites. McDonald's is a billion-dollar company, they need to let us live too."



mcdonald's strike

"I work at the McDonald's in Balham. I'm going on strike for the contracted hours, the security of a union and also the pay rise – which would help me actually pay bills, eat well and maybe even afford a holiday one day, which is unthinkable right now.

"To be honest, it's basically just to get out of poverty. As it is, when I'm paid I am deciding which of my bills to dedicate the pay to, and which to loan money for. I'm juggling debt with each cheque, it's not a life.

"Contracted hours would help me to budget easier. If I can see when I'm working four weeks in advance I'll know how to spread my income across the month. At the moment, there's simply no guarantees."


mcdonald's strike

"I'm Customer Lead at my branch. I'm there to take the pressure off the managers. I'm fighting for £15 an hour because I live in poverty. My son is 12 right now, which means he could technically be working here in four years. I do not want him working and living the way I do: it's depressing. At work, everybody is depressed – literally, depressed.

"We need to be able to go to work and feel comfortable, to be able to have a break and have it not feel like a burden; to go home simply on time and not feel guilty about it, after a 15-hour shift. We need a union to help this, we need a body that can fight battles for the employees. This will also help with scheduling – I'm supposed to be working 40-hour weeks; one week I had five hours. It isn't right.


"I also can't get a mortgage without a contract, which means renting for the rest of my life. But renting is extortionate. I can't afford my rent right now and I'm with a housing association. I also have to use food banks sometimes."


mcdonald's strike

"Basically, most McDonald's employees are on the low end of the pay scale. Most of us can't afford our rent because we're being paid so little – £8.50 an hour, in my case. Also, our stores are constantly understaffed, so we end up doing three or four jobs at once. It isn't fair to be doing that much work while being paid below average. We work our arses off to not be able to live.

"So I'm striking today to make sure things change – so that McDonald's employees can have a decent standard of life, a right that all humans should have."


mcdonald's strike

"I'm striking because I'm not respected in my store. If I ask to leave on time, they say no. We're forced to stay overtime. I've previously been called names by the manager because I didn't know how to make something. I suffer from anxiety – it really affected me. I'd been working there for two years at that point, and have since transferred to a different McDonald's just to feel more comfortable. It is better at my current store, but things that need to improve across all stores."