Big Mac, Big Trouble

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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