Would You Like Fries With Your Union? McDonald’s Employees Organize

Labor organizations say they have established a union to address alleged labor violations. McDonald's says proper representation has not been set up but that it will sit with unions when it is.

Just days after the young workers at Israel's Burger Ranch fast-food chain organized themselves, the Labor Union for Youth and Hareshet – the Young People’s Federation, announced that within less than a day they had succeeded in signing up enough workers at McDonald’s to set up a workers' union there as well.

These labor organizations said the workers were organized so official representatives could approach McDonald’s management to negotiate a collective labor agreement. According to a survey conducted for Hareshet by the Sarid Institute, 35 percent of the employees feel they aren’t being paid fairly.

McDonald’s Israel, which is owned by businessman Omri Padan, has 160 branches and some 4,000 employees, most of them young people. The organizing bodies claim that McDonald’s management is trying to disrupt their organizing efforts, but management claims that there is no workers’ union yet and that it has yet to see the employee signatures.

One-third of a workplace’s employees must agree to union representation for a workplace to be organized. McDonald’s claims that the organizing groups have not yet obtain the necessary signatures.

In a text message sent to workers, McDonald's management wrote: “Dear employees: We want to update you that no workers union has been formed at McDonald’s. The group that is publicizing this has yet to obtain what is required by law to be recognized as the employees’ representative. However, we are reiterating that you are allowed to act in this matter freely, as you see fit, and McDonald’s management does not intend to prevent workers from organizing.”

“The workers of a large and profitable chain like McDonald’s are entitled to a fair wage and to all their rights," said Shai Weinblum of the Labor Union for Youth, which is a division of the Work and Study Youth organization. "We expect Padan to enter into speedy and businesslike negotiations, to embrace the new union and to be as devoted to his workers as he is to his customers.”

Hareshet said that over the past year its office has received numerous complaints from workers about violations of labor laws by the McDonald's chain, including non-payment for sick days, training sessions and transportation expenses. These complaints are apparently behind the effort to organize the workers. McDonald’s denies these claims.

“Since it was founded, the McDonald’s chain respects the rights of its young workers and has never had to deal with any such complaints by them," the company said. "As a policy we have no problem with our workers speaking to whomever they choose, but we will not allow illegal events that will disrupt the orderly management of the restaurants and prevent our customers from receiving efficient service.

“We are aware of the efforts to organize our workers and we have no plan to block this. However, to date no worker representatives have presented themselves bearing a legal power of attorney that enables them to speak on the youths’ behalf. If and when there will be such representation, we will sit and speak to them.

“It is worth noting that the management of Work and Study Youth, in every encounter they’ve had with McDonald’s management, has cited the company as an example of a company that upholds employee rights. The claims raised today by the organization constitute a misrepresentation, in an effort to create a conflict of interest between McDonald’s and its employees.”

AP