Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

Workers in France Take Over McDonald’s to Distribute Food

Workers at a McDonald’s in Saint-Barthélemy, France took the restaurant under their own control so they could distribute boxes of food to people in the neighborhoods of north Marseille who have been living in increasing misery since the beginning of the Covid-19 confinement. The management of McDonald’s in France opposes the action, while at the same time they want to reopen restaurants everywhere with no regard for employee health.

Facebook Twitter Share
McDonald's workers outside their neighborhood workplace. The sign on the left reads, "We want equal rights for everyone, everywhere." On the right, calling McDonald's a tax cheat, it says "WE live here. WE work here. WE are staying here." Photo by Libération.

Since the beginning of the health crisis, people in the already extremely precarious northern neighborhoods of Marseille have been plunged into poverty. The unemployment rate in these neighborhoods are 25 percent, compared to the national average of 8.5 percent, and 39 percent of the population lives below the official poverty line.

Confinement, with its layoffs and with wages for those working in the informal sector grinding to a halt, has only worsened this precarious situation. Today, an increasing number of people in these neighborhoods are unable to meet even their most basic needs, such as food. As Nair Abdallah from the Maison Blanche neighborhood association put it, “Families are starting to tell us that they no longer have anything to eat. One mother said she and her children had nothing but onion soup to eat for more than three days.”

Many collectives have begun to distribute boxes of food to the most impoverished. Each day, more and more people are asking for help. Government Social Services have even begun to refer people to these collectives. 

To help meet the surge in demand, workers at the McDonald’s in Saint-Barthélemy, supported by a number of collectives and associations including the Syndicat des quartiers populaires de Marseille (Union of the Popular Quarters of Marseille), decided to take over the restaurant so it could be used to help in addressing the crisis. Shopkeepers, residents, and the food bank send food, which is stored in the restaurant’s walk-in cooler. The restaurant is also being  used to prepare and distribute boxes to associations and collectives, which are then brought to apartment building lobbies or left on front doors. All this is done with full personal protective equipment, including masks and gloves. There are also hand washing, coughing and sneezing protocols. For Kamel Guémari,  union member in the caucus Force Ouvrière (Worker’s Strength) said, “In this state of emergency, if we don’t take action for our neighborhoods, who will?”

McDonald’s management opposes this action and has condemned it. As Ralph Blindauer, lawyer for the Saint-Barthélemy restaurant workers, told La Marseillaise newspaper, “We would have preferred to do this with an agreement from McDonald’s France, but they said no, citing liability.” And he added, “They are devoid of the slightest bit of humanity, so the workers just decided to ignore them.”

McDonald’s France has positioned itself as an obstacle to addressing the crisis. The Saint-Barthélemy workers realized they could only count on themselves to help support the Marseille community.

Indeed, McDonald’s as a brand is hardly known for its compassion. Just a week ago, the multinational announced that it wanted to reopen its restaurants for drive-through ordering and home delivery — to the detriment of employee health. And even if resuming work is voluntary, Dramé, a union member at SUD Hôtellerie-Restauration (Hotel and Restaurant Union) in Paris, claimed that “employees who refuse to go back to work will be tagged as enemies of management, and risk reprisals.” The company is known for retaliating against “undesirable” employees. Last year, the Marsactu newspaper reported that McDonald’s paid 25,000 euros to solicit false testimony so it could fire union activist Kamel Guemari.

As for resuming work for the company’s employees, Dramé explains that “the kitchens are very small, it would be difficult to socially distance. Also, there is the issue of masks. The priority should be to give them to nurses who desperately need them.” Selling hamburgers to line McDonald’s pockets is nonessential. What is essential for responding to the health and economic crisis, though, is taking over restaurants to help the community, as the Saint-Barthélemy workers have done. 

At a time when the French state is leading workers into slaughter with its catastrophic management of the crisis, when employers want to reopen businesses and restart nonessential production at the expense of the health of thousands of employees, the workers at McDonald’s in Marseilles have picked up the tools of their work so they can be put to use to help confront the crisis. They are in the best position to reorganize distribution, not to profit the employers but to help relieve the current crisis.

First published on April 9 in French in Révolution Permanente.

Translation: Scott Cooper

Facebook Twitter Share

Révolution Permanente

Our French sister site, part of the international network of La Izquierda Diario

Twitter

Europe

A Russian tank fires toward Kharkiv on the May 10 offensive against Ukraine.

Russia’s Offensive in Ukraine May Be a Turning Point in the War

Russia’s May 10 offensive in Ukraine may be a turning point in the dynamics of the war, and the specter of Ukraine’s defeat is exposing the cracks that divide the Western powers.

Claudia Cinatti

May 21, 2024

Nancy Fraser, Jacques Rancière, Silvia Federicci and many others say: Stop the Criminalization of Palestine Solidarity in France!

Anasse Kazib, a union activist and former presidential candidate, was recently interrogated by French anti-terrorist police. In this open letter, more than 800 prominent intellectuals and activists call to stand united against the criminalization of Palestine solidarity.

A mash-up of Macron over a palestinian flag and articles detailing the rising repression

Against the Criminalization of Opinion and in Defense of Our Right to Support Palestine: We Must Stand Up!

In France, the repression of Palestine supporters is escalating. A conference by La France Insoumise (LFI) has been banned; a union leader has been arrested and charged for speaking out for Palestine; court cases have increased against those who “condone terrorism”; and the state has stepped up its “anti-terrorism” efforts. In the face of all this, we must stand together.

Nathan Deas

April 23, 2024

Occupy Against the Occupation: Protest Camp in Front of Germany’s Parliament

Since Monday, April 8, pro-Palestinian activists have been braving Germany's bleak climate — both meteorological and political — to protest the Israeli genocide in Gaza, and the unconditional German support for it. 

Erik de Jong

April 20, 2024

MOST RECENT

Two large signs that read "UC Divest from Genocide" and "Gaza Solidarity Encampment" behind the two signs a "UAW on Strike sign" pokes out

Dispatch from Day 2 of the UC Santa Cruz Picket Line

Left Voice member and City University of New York worker Olivia reports on the second day of her trip to Santa Cruz for UAW 4811’s historic strike to talk to workers.

Olivia Wood

May 25, 2024

Why Won’t PSC-CUNY Stand with Palestine Now?

While other higher education unions are going on strike in defense of their workers and against the genocide in Gaza, the bureaucratic leadership of PSC-CUNY just crushed a resolution calling on the university to divest from Israel and to drop the charges against Palestinian activists arrested on April 30. 

James Dennis Hoff

May 24, 2024

Attack on Pro-Palestinian Protestors at UMich Latest Example of Democrats Defending Israel’s Genocide in Gaza

Capitalist apologists from the Democratic Party have chosen their business partners in Israel’s far-right government over Palestinian lives. In Ann Arbor, those same so-called “progressive” Democrats decided to bring felony charges against protestors earlier this week, encouraging harsh police violence against the University of Michigan encampment.

Ryan McCarty

May 24, 2024
Activists in Detroit speaking at a press conference condemning repression of the pro-Palestine movement on May 20, 2024.

Detroit Activists Hold Press Conference to Condemn Repression of Pro-Palestine Protesters

Detroit Will Breathe organized a press conference to discuss the police violence and repression against pro-Palestine protesters. The movement must stand in solidarity and unite to combat the increase of repression.

Kyle Thibodeau

May 23, 2024