Big Mac, Big Trouble

Sara V. Buckwitz
December 1, 2000


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Big Mac, Big Trouble

Ten years ago, McDonald's opened its first branch in Moscow hoping to start a 'beautiful McFriendship' between the East and West. At first, it appeared to be a success. More than 27,000 Russians applied for a single position at McDonald's largest restaurant.

Then came Russia's 1998 economic crash. According to Patrick Cockburn in TheIndependent, some workers' wages in roubles dropped by as much as 70 percent, but not all the employees felt the crash. Senior managers' salaries were still calculated in dollars. Employees began organizing to earn livable wages.

Natalya Gracheva started a trade union two years ago at the McComplex, McDonald's food-processing plant on the outskirts of Moscow. Since then, many union members have received threats, apparently aimed at discouraging union organizing. Because of these threats, the McComplex workers were summoned by the Duma--the Russian parliament--where they expressed grievances against McDonald's working conditions; a meeting that McDonald's management refused to attend.

McDonald's attitude in Russia today is a far cry from its slogan when it opened in 1990: 'We are a united family and we will survive everything together.'
--Sara V. Buckwitz
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