Lauren, aged 22 years, represents a new generation of young workers who are following in the footsteps of past activists such as Mary Quaile, who never wavered in her belief that trade unions were the key to women and men achieving proper pay and decent conditions.
Unlike Mary who left school at 12, Lauren went to Manchester Metropolitan University and gained a degree in accounting and finance. It was at university she became interested in politics, taking part in the Feminist Society. Lauren says she is a feminist because: “We live in a patriarchal society and we have to get rid of it if we want to be free as women.”
Lauren joined Stand up to Racism and has taken part in a number of demonstrations and meetings. She is now on the steering committee of LGBT against Islamaphobia in Manchester. Lauren also became involved with refugee campaigns because of the way in which she felt that the media demonised refugees, and went down to Calais as part of activities to support them.
Like many young people today Jeremy Corbyn has inspired her but “I am not a member of the Labour Party because I believe we need an uprising of the working class if we are to change society.”
After leaving university Lauren got a job in the fast food industry, and after working there for six months joined the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union. She says: “They are the only effective union working with fast food workers. They are serious about supporting workers in McDonalds and the recent strike showed that.”
BFAWU is the largest independent trade union in the food sector in the UK. They have spearheaded the ‘Fast Food Rights’ campaign which has brought many young people, like Lauren, into its trade union.
The union has joined up with fast food workers across the world fighting for fairness at work for some of the poorest paid workers. In the USA, McDonalds has come under significant pressure as part of the “Fight for $15” campaign – supported by the Service Employee’s International Union (SEIU). As a result of this campaign, more than 10 million workers in America are on a path to $15 an hour, and 20 million workers in total have won wage increases since 2012.
In August 2017 BFAWU balloted its members in McDonalds for strike action. Ian Hodson, National President of the BFAWU, summed up the mood of the union;
“We, at the BFAWU, fully support the historic decision by these brave McDonald’s workers to stand up and fight back against McDonald’s – a company that has let them down one too many times…McDonald’s has had countless opportunities to resolve grievances by offering workers a fair wage and acceptable working conditions. Instead, they have chosen to ignore their workers by tightening their purse strings – filling their CEO’s pockets, at the expense of workers here in the UK and across the world.”
The result, 95.7% of workers balloted voted in favour of the first strike by McDonalds workers in UK history which took place on 4 September. Although only two branches of McDonalds came out on strike Lauren says the effect was much more widespread. “Before, there were 3 of us in my workplace who were in the union and now there are 13. And people from across the country are contacting the union about joining.” After the strike fellow workers were approaching Lauren about joining the union. “The strike inspired other people to believe that together in a union we could challenge the wages and conditions at work.” In the long term Lauren would like to become a union representative.
Lauren has spoken at events across the country. “I do not need to tell people that it is not great to work at McDonalds, we deserve better as workers.” And her message to young workers; “Join a union and get involved.”
Lauren is speaking this week at the WCML on 11 November at “…the point is to change it” -celebrating Ruth and Eddie Frow”. Its now sold out but you can join the reserve list at email@example.com
Join BFAWU here