Student Guestworkers to McDonald’s: Our Fight Goes Global June 6th

Student Guestworkers to McDonald’s: Our Fight Goes Global June 6th

McDonald’s J-1 guestworkers to “supersize” protests against guestworker exploitation in multiple countries

CHICAGO, IL, April 1, 2013—McDonald’s J-1 student guestworkers fighting to end exploitation by the fast food giant said Monday that they would hold an international day of action against McDonald’s on June 6. The date coincides with the three-month anniversary of the students’ strike against McDonald’s restaurants where they faced severe labor abuse in Pennsylvania.

“McDonald’s thought it could wait until we went back to our home countries and the problem would go away,” said NGA member and student guestworker Rodrigo Yañez. “We’re going to keep the fight up in our countries, and we’re going to make it grow. We’re inviting allies in the U.S. and around the world to join us.

Student guestworkers gathered last week at McDonald’s corporate headquarters and the home of CEO Don Thompson. They personally delivered over 100,000 petition signatures and demanded a high-level meeting to discuss ending the abuse of guestworkers at McDonald’s restaurants.

When McDonald’s refused, the students decided to bring the campaign to their home countries around the world, including Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, and Malaysia, with an international day of protest set for June 6.

“McDonald’s could make all this go away,” said NGA Executive Director Saket Soni. “They could take responsibility for what happened to these guest workers inside their stores. They could adopt labor standards as they’ve promised. Or they could look forward to a long, hot summer.”

The student guestworkers paid $3,000-4,000 apiece to participate in the U.S. State Department’s J-1 visa program, expecting decent work and a cultural exchange. Instead, McDonald’s used them as a sub-minimum wage exploitable workforce. Students faced:

  • As few as four hours of work a week at $7.25 an hour, with exorbitant housing deductions that brought their net pay far below minimum wage
  • Shifts as long as 25 hours with no overtime pay
  • Being packed into employer-owned basement housing, up to eight students to a room, for $300 each per month
  • Retaliation by McDonald’s franchisee Andy Cheung and labor supplier GeoVisions against students for exercising their labor rights, including further cuts to hours and surprise home visits

McDonald’s student guestworkers from Latin America and Asia joined the National Guestworker Alliance and went on strike on Mar. 6 from the Central PA stores where they had worked, demanding that the fast food giant take responsibility for labor abuse at its restaurants. Their fight gained national attention by The NationNBC NewsNPR and the Wall Street Journal, and they won the exclusion of McDonald’s franchisee Andy Cheung from the McDonald’s system.

Traveling the country to build support, the student guestworkers held rallies and protests in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Washington DC, New York, and Chicago. They were joined by hundreds of allies, including from One PittsburghFight for PhillyUnited NYSEIU InternationalRetail Action ProjectJobs with JusticeUnited Worker CongressNational Domestic Worker AllianceIBEWWorkers Organizing Committee Chicago, and other community groups.

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