McUnion? McNoWay

Police made sure that labour marchers didn’t stop in for a Big Mac.
Police made sure that labour marchers didn’t stop in for a Big Mac.

The running battle between McDonald’s Restaurants and labour activists flared up in Montreal this past month, following the announcement that the newly unionized McDonald’s outlet on Peel Street would be shut down by the end of August, an act many are calling union-busting and are pledging to challenge.

“My employees are my priority,” said franchise owner Michel Marchand. “The restaurant industry is a difficult sector… I face insurmountable losses,” he said. Marchand cited a tripling of the monthly rent to explain the closing. This claim was disputed by critics who pointed out the business was mid-way through a long-term lease.

While no employees at the outlet would comment, a posting on the website mcspotlight.org by a worker identified as Pascal Maduff, gave an indication of discontent.

“What I want to show is that, in fact, McDonald's has all to win [sic] with a union. They will have a better image, they will have more customers, the employees will be more happy to work so they won’t be obligated to write ‘smiles are free” on the menu board,” he wrote, concluding with, “Hey Ronald, exploitation’s over!”

Maduff wasn’t alone. The union acreditation drive resulted in 80 per cent of the employees signing union cards.

McDonald’s, long a target of unionizing efforts, has managed to keep unions out of its 15,000 North American outlets, but has lately had a lot of trouble in Montreal. A unionized outlet in nearby St. Hubert was closed in 1998, and the corporation allegedly blocked the certification of another outlet on Avenue Mont-Royal by intimidating workers and flooding the store with new employees.

“It’s obviously union-busting,” Asim Kahn, a customer eating at the restaurant, told The Journal. “But there’s not much you can do about it. I mean, if they’re McDonald’s employees it’s not like they’re going to be able to do anything. It actually kinda smart on the part of McDonald’s… efficient, you know?”

“Honestly, it doesn’t bother me at all,” he added. “I guess that’s part of the problem, and maybe it’s because I’m not in a union myself, but I would not think twice about eating here.”

CAW local 4001 member Sophie Parent showed little interest in solidarity when asked whether the restaurant’s action would affect her eating habits.

“No, as a customer it changes nothing. I don’t identify with them, I couldn’t care less,” she said. “The government should not intervene in these questions. It’s none of their business unless something like a school or transit strike is going to affect society.”

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When Chad Leddy was six, he ate a box of 20 McNuggets all by himself. He was ill.

Business section debuts today

Welcome to the inaugural edition of The Journal’s Business & Employment section. This new feature will be appearing weekly this year.

Whether encountered on campus in the form of corporations and their oft-controversial donations, or off-campus as a consumer or a worker, money matters.

Some—and not only those in Commerce—choose to embrace its machinations. For others—and not only No Logo diehards—business is a distasteful sector that has a disproportionate influence on society. Whatever your opinion, we hope you enjoy the increased coverage and investigation of business events, and our focus on the societal context in which they occur. If you’re interested in contributing, have some experience you’d like to share, a business you’d like to profile, or if you just have something you’d like to say, please contact Chad at business@queensjournal.com.

McDonald's Quick Facts

First Union Shop: Squamish, B.C. (Certified in 1998 / decertified 1999)

Peel St. Outlet gets a union: Nov. 11

Rent last year at Peel McD: $70000

Rent this year at Peel McD: $210,000

Countries Operated in: 120

# of McDonald’s in Canada: 1,100

Employees nationwide: 70,000

Graduates from the “Canadian Institute of Hamburgerology”: 20,000

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