This is Laura’s life: age 24; a Northerner; bar team leader for a large pub chain (and formerly a McDonald’s manager); zero hours contract; on a minimum wage; no savings in the bank; trainers donated to her by a friend; boss spied on the workers’ own secret Facebook group as they were organising a union.
“The main reason I joined the union is because I believe in collective action, all of us are better than one of us,” Laura explains.
Watch a video of Laura's story here
*Warning - some language may offend.
The BFAWU welcomes the commitment given by the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell today in his Labour Party Conference speech, of a living wage of at least £10 an hour for all workers.
This would raise the living standards of millions of low paid workers in this country and would hopefully bring about an end to the shameless exploitation of people by certain companies, as a result of George Osborne’s ‘living wage’; a gimmick that offers security and improved life standards to precisely no-one.
A living wage of £10 an hour would be a life changing moment, that offers us an opportunity to build the fairer society that we all want to see. Traditionally, it's been Labour that is the true friend of of working people and we would certainly take the view that Mr McDonnell has re-confirmed that in this commitment.
It saddens us deeply to hear of the death of the US working class leader, Myrna De Los Santos, at the age of 49; a lady who despite ill-health, often walked to work in wind and rain through being unable to afford transportation. An inspirational woman who attended picket lines and fought for better pay and Trade Union rights. Unbelievably, she died for want of healthcare that she couldn't afford. Despite earning only $9 an hour, she didn't qualify for Medicaid or any other help. The fact that Myrna was unable to receive the care she needed brings great shame upon both her employer, McDonalds and her country. One of the richest companies on earth, based in one of the planet's richest economies.
Every worker deserves a life of fair play, dignity, well-being and good health. There should be no ifs, and no buts. However, poverty wages and corporate greed take these rights away from so many workers and in Myrna's case, the low pay that she received contributed massively to the loss of her life.
The Bakers', Food and Allied Workers Union stands in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in the United States through this tragic and terrible time, and we offer our sincere love and condolences to all who knew Myrna.
We pledge to reflect on Myrna's life and approach our efforts to fight for the rights of fast-food workers in the United Kingdom and abroad with renewed vigour. We also urge everyone to sign the petition on behalf of US fast-food workers (link below).
We stand with the 'Fight For $15' campaign and remind workers in our country that the US healthcare/insurance model is one that the UK Conservative government is making a steady creep towards. Cases like Myrna's should drive us to fight to protect our NHS in our country and to demand free, universal healthcare for everyone else around the world.
If countries can find billions of pounds to set other nations on fire and bomb people, we sure as hell can find the money to provide healthcare for all.
Ian Hodson BFAWU National president (On behalf of the Fast Food Rights campaign; £10 and a Union)
Following a short hearing with officials of the Labour Party South East, I have received notification that I have had my suspension lifted and informed that I will be able to participate normally in Labour Party business.
I have to say I am absolutely delighted that my appeal has been upheld and that I can continue to campaign both inside and outside the party for the return of Jeremy Corbyn as our leader.
The assistance that I have had has been invaluable as has the support from thousands of rank and file members. My sincere thanks to my lawyer, Martin Howe who has given professional guidance and advice from the start and invaluable assistance in having this decision overturned.
Finally, I thank my own union, the Bakers Food & Allied Workers Union for their unstinting support and campaign for my reinstatement.
Now we need to ensure that the thousands of members who have been suspended have their membership reinstated and the opportunity to exercise their democratic right and to vote in the leadership election.
In a statement from Ronnie's solicitor, Martin Howe of Howe & Co Solicitors, said:
“Ronnie, and thousands of other Labour Party members, should never have been suspended for using robust language in the context of the white hot heat of political debate. Free speech is the lifeblood of democracy and the Labour Party should have no part in banning words without taking context into account . Context is everything. We need fair and even-handed investigations of genuine grievances. The blanket use of suspension before investigation - preventing members from attending meetings, theAnnual Conference and, most importantly, from voting in the leadership election - has no place in a modern political party that proudly brought the Human Rights Act to our statute books and where fairness and equality are at the heart of the movement. I call on the Party immediately to lift the suspensions of all other members who have also exercised their right to express robust political speech so that we can have a truly democratic leadership election that reflects the will of the whole membership.”
The BFAWU Executive Council welcomes the reversal of the Labour Party NEC’s decision to suspend our General Secretary, Ronnie Draper.
Although we are pleased that common sense has prevailed in this instance, we are extremely disappointed that the decision to suspend Ronnie was taken in the first place and we are very concerned that thousands of rank and file members have been refused the right to take part in this unnecessary leadership election. We demand that all paid up Labour Party members and supporters be reinstated and that this undemocratic and ideological purge is brought to an end. We call on the Parliamentary Labour Party and those who have wilfully and selfishly created chaos to end this civil war now and get on with the job of standing up for our communities, who desperately need a strong and united Labour Party. The focus should be on stopping this Conservative Government led by an unelected Prime Minister. The energy and passion should be directed at preventing Theresa May from her agenda of furthering inequality, not at vain, ego-driven, internal squabbles.
It is time for the Labour Party to start doing what it has always done best: standing up for workers; supporting the vulnerable and those in need; and helping to build a fairer, more equal society that gives hope and opportunity for all, not just the wealthy few.
National President on behalf of the Executive Council
On Tuesday 23rd August, I received an email from the Labour Party informing me that I have been suspended from membership. I am now blocked from attending Labour Party meetings, Annual Conference and, above all, voting in the leadership election.
The only explanation I have been given is that this is something to do with an unidentified tweet I have posted. I have not been given the opportunity to refute any allegations, or a date for any hearing.
I believe this flies in the face of natural justice. I intend to challenge my suspension robustly and am currently taking legal advice.
I do not seek any personal privilege based on my trade union position. I passionately believe that all members should be allowed to be heard, and be given the opportunity to vote for the candidate of their choice.
I am extremely concerned that suspensions and bans are being imposed in an arbitrary or politically motivated way in this election, and I will be raising the issue with the General Secretary.
This suspension will not stop me or the Bakers Food & Allied Workers Union from campaigning politically for workers' rights, including the £10 per hour rate and abolition of zero hour contracts.
The Executive Council (EC) of the BFAWU were disappointed to learn that our General Secretary, Ronnie Draper, has been suspended by the Labour Party, with reference to alleged, and as yet unproven, comments made on social media. The EC would like to express its support of, and solidarity, with Ronnie, who we feel has been treated disgracefully. We call upon the Labour Party NEC to immediately withdraw this suspension to allow the General Secretary, who has been a life-long member of the Labour Party and who represents thousands of low-paid workers across the UK, to exercise his democratic right to vote in the upcoming leadership election.
The BFAWU has been a long-time affiliate of the Labour Party, supporting all of its democratically elected leaders throughout our history, regardless of their political stance. While we may not always have agreed with the direction being taken by the Party, we have always been a friend, ally and supporter.
Politics is an emotive business and workers deserve to have a passionate voice speaking up on their behalf. Unlike others, who have not been suspended, our Union has not funded or supported other political organisations that were, or are, in conflict with the Labour Party.
National President on behalf of the Executive Council.
At our recent Annual Conference in June this year, BFAWU delegates debated the current and future state of the Labour Party. The unanimous position of the Conference floor, was that since Jeremy Corbyn was elected as leader in September 2015, the Labour Party now represented and supported the aspirations of our members, working in the food industry. They also felt that the Labour Party was now fully in tune with the issues they face in the workplace, unlike during Ed Miliband’s leadership, where members felt that the party was way too apathetic and nothing more than ‘Tory-lite’. Jeremy Corbyn’s support for our £10 an hour campaign and his pledge to end the use of zero hours contracts, along with addressing the issue of heat in the workplace resonates very strongly with the people we represent. In addition, BFAWU members and representatives feel that the Labour Party’s performance in local, mayoral and parliamentary by-elections, along with substantially increasing it’s membership, forcing a number of governmental u-turns and winning the argument right across the piece in terms of opposing austerity, shows that the Party is heading in the right direction. All the more remarkable, considering the state of the Party after the bruising general election results of May 2015 and subsequent crisis of confidence.
The upshot of our Conference debate, was that delegates agreed; if there was any challenge to Mr Corbyn’s leadership, our Union would continue to support the current, democratically elected incumbent and the progressive policies he has put forward, that we believe match the hopes and aspirations of our members, and those who work in the food industry as a whole.
The attempted coup by the Parliamentary Labour Party and the resulting leadership challenge, all cheered on by the establishment media is based on nothing other than delusions, egos and vanity. It is helping no-one. At a time when the now Theresa May-led Conservatives are positioning themselves further to the right than even David Cameron’s government was, for the Labour Party to be spending it’s time and it’s members’ money laying itself bare in public and demonstrating such a blatant and brazen affront to democracy, is as worrying as it is saddening. A victory for Owen Smith’s challenge would only be a pyrrhic one, that would guarantee precisely nothing in terms of a general election win for Labour, nor will it help to address the real-world issues our members face, day in and day out.
These are the reasons why the BFAWU calls on all our members, supporters and affiliates eligible to take part in the leadership election, to vote for Jeremy Corbyn. His track record speaks for itself.
Ian Hodson (BFAWU National President)
The 6th Annual Wigan Diggers Festival will take place between 11.00am and 9.30pm on September 10th 2016 at Gerrard Winstanley Gardens, The Wiend, Wigan.
The day itself will feature a historical digging re-enactment, over 50 food, book and other stalls, along with a beer tent, children's entertainment and live music.
For more information please click here
For the Facebook page, click here