The worker occupation lasted more than 20 hours. In the end, recognizing the legitimacy of the demands from both sides, the parties reached an agreement in the Ministry of Work.
It all began at 8:30 AM. The guests in the restaurant found themselves in the middle of an unexpected activity: youth on bicycles came through the door, drummers arrived. This produced smiles among the guests and explanations from the surprised supervisors.
The restaurant was occupied by some of its workers and those employed by Correo Grupal. They demanded that four workers who had been fired be rehired and that the employers legitimize the illegal work and pay.
"When we entered, we told the public that they could remain sitting and finish eating, and everyone was cool with it. They stayed in the restaurant and began to stand by our side because they understood what we were demanding," said Martin Dominguez, one of the workers from Correo Grupal.
"The McDonald’s workers left immediately. They didn’t complain, because they are paid the official rate. Their bosses stuck around. We told them they could leave, because they weren’t hostages, and that the takeover was peaceful and we weren’t even going to eat anything in the restaurant," Dominguez told La Vaca.
In a demonstration of good taste, there was a general consensus to not consume any of the products from the restaurant during the takeover.
A group from the Federation of the University of Buenos Aires attended the affair. Nicolás Rapanelli, union secretary of the FUBA, said, "Some of the workers are university students, and we came to support them because they belong to the union."
Rapanelli hoped that a result of the conflict would be the rehiring of the four unemployed workers "and that they [the employers] permit a process of union organization and election so that these compañeros can defend themselves."
According to Martín Domínguez, the conflict began with one small detail: the delivery workers pertained to a Bakers’ Union, which determined that the workers should be paid 3.05 pesos an hour (approx. $1 USD). "But we worked for Correo Grupal, a very shady business that McDonalds contracted for delivery services. They paid us 1.05 pesos an hour (approx. 33 US cents), under the table. At the same time, they made us sign two receipts, one legitimate one, where they lowered the number of hours worked so that it looked like they paid us more. Suppose one worked 190 hours, they would say it was only 70, and that’s how they calculated that they were paying us 3.05 an hour. They kept the other receipt, the real one."
Each worker earns 125 pesos a month, plus tips (between 40 and 50 pesos per month). They are also given one cheeseburger, a small soda and small fries. "But when I hit the streets, I am risking my life because the bosses always demand more, telling us to move faster and faster," said Dominguez.
Martin was one of the workers who proposed to his compañeros that they begin to unite to demand legalization of their work situation. "But someone told on me and I was fired, along with three compañeros. Others were sent to work in an isolated McDonald’s that required an hour and half commute by bicycle, so they were disorganizing their lives."
Martin recognized, during the takeover, that at least the rehiring of the ex-workers would be a success. "We demanded that they recognize the regulations of the Bakers’ Union we belonged to, that said our work should be legalized and that we be paid the legitimate rate. Our strike was peaceful, so that they follow the law."
After the occupation of McDonald’s, the workers went to the offices of Correo Grupal. "Come back tomorrow and we’ll rehire you all," the bosses said. "But this didn’t mean anything to me," said Martin "because they didn’t put anything in writing. What’s more, they were disrespectful to us because they said ‘you aren’t legally my employees’. They said that to my face. It’s a phony business!"
There were between twenty and thirty delivery workers that went to Correo Grupal in protest. And they waited
Wednesday 29th, at 5PM, the workers went to a meeting in the Ministry of Work and returned with smiles that would have provoked the envy of the red headed Ronald McDonald:
The workers were to receive a new agreement within 15 days
The ex-workers would be rehired
The initial contracts were suspended
The Bakers’ Union regulation was recognized, so that the workers would be paid the legal amount, which is approximately three times their previous salary
Before the workers left the restaurant, banging drums and singing, Martín Domínguez commented that the time to organize will come. "But now it’s time to celebrate." And the party began
This piece originally appeared in LaVaca.org, and is translated and reprinted here with permission from the editors. LaVaca.org is an excellent resource on social movements and news in Argentina, written by Argentine journalists. This article was translated from Spanish by Upside Down World Editor, Benjamin Dangl. A McDonald’s located central Buenos Aires, Argentina was taken over by its delivery workers for almost an entire day on June 28, 2005. The workers pertained to a shady business called Correo Grupal, which was contracted by McDonald’s and paid their workers under the table. Working for this contracted business, the workers earned a third of what they legally should have. There was no happy meal, but the conflict ended in total triumph.