McDonald’s worker fights for union in Moscow

Druzhinin says that before he joined the fledgling union last year, he was presided by managers as one of the best workers at the McComplex. Since then, he says, he has been hit with a series of warnings for such things as showing up at work drunk and ruining equipment, accusations he says were fabricated to punish him for union activity. “Once I joined the union, the administration just started attacking me,” Druzhinin said.

The Toronto Star
October 16, 2000

McDonald’s worker fights for union in Moscow

MOSCOW (AP) – The struggle by some workers to unionize at McDonalds Corp.’s food production plant outside Moscow could hinge on a court ruling expected today.

Yevgeny Druzhinin, a forklift operator at the “McComplex” facility since 1992, brought the suit to challenge the company’s latest reprimand in what he says is s string of warnings designed to punish him for union activity.

Druzhinin’s case focused on McDonald’s refusal to recognize the union. Russia’s labour laws say as few as three employees can form a union, and they guarantee an elected member of a union’s ruling body, such as Druzhinin, cannot be punished or fired without union permission.

McDonald’s, which has successfully kept unions out of its U.S. restaurants, contends it is abiding by Russia’s laws and argues Druzhinin’s group is not a properly constituted union.

The fight has grabbed the attention of international labour groups, the Moscow city government, which owns 20 per cent of the McDonald’s Moscow operation in Moscow, and the Russian parliament. Some experts say it could tarnish the image of McDonald’s highly successful operation in Russia.

Druzhinin says that before he joined the fledgling union last year, he was presided by managers as one of the best workers at the McComplex. Since then, he says, he has been hit with a series of warnings for such things as showing up at work drunk and ruining equipment, accusations he says were fabricated to punish him for union activity.

“Once I joined the union, the administration just started attacking me, Druzhinin said.

McDonald’s executives and lawyers have refused to comment on his case before the judges issue a ruling.

Druzhinin and others claim the company has pressured them to drop the small union, which includes just 18 of the plant’s 400 workers.

They say they have been isolated from other employees and allege McDonald’s has punished them with inconvenient hours and shorted breaks.

McDonald’s says it would gladly negotiated with a union, but contends Druzhinin’s group has no official status.

Druzhinin says that is absurd.

Natalya Gracheva, a security guard at the plant for a decade, founded the union when pay and work hours slid after Russia’s 1998 economic crash, and the union contends it is officially registered.

The group’s members conceded McDonald’s employees do relatively well compared to other Russian workers. Their monthly earnings of around $100 (U.S.) is above the national average of roughly $82.


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