Filipino youths join int’l campaign for rights of fast food workers; ‘target’ McDo

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YOUTH members of the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL-SENTRO) held today a coordinated flashmob and pickets in front of several McDonald’s restaurants in the country as part of the global campaign for higher wages and rights of fast food workers and to celebrate at the same time the newly declared International Fast Food Workers’ Day.

APL-Youth staged flashmob and pickets at McDonald’s outlets near MRT Quezon Ave. station in Edsa (Metro Manila); Colon St. in Cebu City; and Bolton and Ilustre Sts. in Davao City.

The US-based McDonald’s is the world’s largest chain of fast food restaurants – in 2012 only it has over 34,000 hamburger joints serving 68 million customers daily in 119 countries and territories, enabling it to amass $27.6 billion in revenues and $5.5 billion in net income – but it also pioneered and systematized the use of contractual labor, especially among the youth, in the multi-billion dollar fast food industry.

McDonald’s rampant practices of hiring workers with low salaries, few benefits and no security of tenure – as well as its rabid resistance to labor unions – to ensure bigger profits have prompted even the venerable international dictionaries Merriam-Webster’s, Random House Webster’s and Oxford English to coin or list the word “McJob” to denote a “low-paying” or “low-quality” job.

“In fact, an overwhelming majority of the McDonald’s 1.8 million global workforce – employed by its franchisees or affiliate firms or the corporation itself –epitomizes those engaged in and suffering from ‘McJobs,’” Marco Gojol, APL-Youth secretary general, said.

McDonald’s anti-worker and anti-union practices are in turn widely imitated in the rapidly growing global fast food industry – this year’s sales alone are projected to reach $239.7 billion – especially by other fast food transnational corporations like Burger King, Wendy’s, KFC, and many others, which all operate also in the Philippines.

Thus, the global union IUF (International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering and Allied Workers’ Associations) disclosed that “fast food workers around the world face the same issues of precarious work, low wages, and (their employers’) fierce opposition to union organization.”

While today’s “global day of action” is primarily aimed against international fast food giants led by McDonald’s, trade unions and other civil society groups in about 33 countries in six continents are expected to protest also similar practices of local companies that perpetuate cheap wages, scarce benefits, contractualization and union-busting, the labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) reiterated.

In the Philippines, Jollibee, the country’s top fast food restaurant, is likewise notorious for its low pays and routine use of “endo” – acronym for “end-of-contract” workers with short-term and unprotected work arrangements or also called “5-5-5” scheme in which workers are endlessly hired and fired every five months to prevent them from becoming permanent or regular workers.

Meanwhile, APL-Youth chided the McDonald’s Philippines for its “empty praise” to its Filipino staff as “hardworking, driven and talented” after its contender, a McDonald’s crew in Cagayan de Oro City, placed first runner-up in the Season 5 Finals of the Voice of McDonald’s – a global singing contest for McDonald’s employees – in Orlando, Florida, ironically last May 1, the International Labor Day.

“The supposedly flattering tributes of McDonald’s Philippines to its Filipino crew are nonsense in view of the local McDonald’s blind adherence to the global McDonald’s systematic ‘endo’ or contractualization, cheap wages and scarce benefits, and union-busting practices,” Giline Servidad, APL-Youth vice chair for NCR, said.

Today’s protest actions are also in solidarity with the ongoing “Fight for 15” campaign in the US, where fast food workers here are demanding $15 an hour pay, and rallies will be conducted in at least 150 American cities simultaneous with the mobilizations throughout the world, including the said flashmob-pickets of APL-Youth in several McDonald’s outlets in the Philippines.

“The ‘Fight for 15’ in the US has caught the attention of workers around the world in the global fast food industry where workers have recently been mobilizing,” said IUF secretary general Ron Oswald.

He noted that this campaign “has added further inspiration and led (the US fast food workers) to join together internationally in a fight for higher pay and better rights on the job … (which) is just the beginning of an unprecedented international fast food workers’ movement.”

Last May 5-6 an international fast food workers’ meeting organized by the IUF was held in New York City, and attended by more than 80 workers and trade unionists from 26 countries, including APL and SENTRO delegates, to pave the way for establishing a global fast food union network.

The participants picketed a McDonald’s restaurant in Manhattan on May 7 and handed a letter to the McDonald’s Corp. calling to “immediately end (its) precarious employment practices, mobile working hours and zero-hour contracts and to comply with labor laws in all countries where (it) operates.”

Aimed at the company’s stockholders’ meeting in the first week of May, the letter added that “All McDonald’s workers are entitled to dignified work and living wages, and an environment free from harassment and intimidation.”

It further urged McDonald’s to “respect the internationally recognized right to freedom of association as a human right and enter in good faith (in) negotiations with workers’ representatives to raise wages for its workers and respect workers’ rights.”

McDonald’s franchises in the Philippines are run by the Golden Arches Development Corp., originally owned by businessman George Yang but now controlled by taipan Andrew Tan, the third richest Filipino this year according to Forbes, and whose group of companies includes the giant real estate firm Megaworld and Emperador Distillers, maker of the highly profitable Emperador brandy.

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