days of action reportback
I did a lot of moving around that weekend – I made my way from Omaha, Nebraska to Greensboro, North Carolina for a mini-encuentro of the Snail’s Pace Collective. We gave manager letters to employees at eight or nine McDonald's restaurants in the Chicago airport, in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and in North Carolina. At first I was a bit shy about it. I walked to the counter, gave a letter to the manager, saying a few things about the CIW and asking for them to read the letter and pass it along. That went well, I was very polite and quiet, the managers were really nice and seemed interested and said they would pass the word along. Two or three of us usually walked in, talked to the manager, and then left.
I had all these exciting images in my head of walking in to a crowded McDonald's, dramatically jumping onto a table, talking loud enough for the whole restaurant to hear, telling everyone about the CIW and SFA and the Alliance for Fair Food. I imagined being bold and loud and having a lot of fun. When it came down to it, it was really intimidating!! After quietly handing out a few manager letters, I was getting a little bored, and not feeling very effective. So, I sucked it up and went for it.
We walked into a McDonald's somewhere between Richmond and Philadelphia - four of us. Monica, Alie and Tessa went inside while I sorted fliers out in the car. Tessa walked to the middle of the restaurant - between the busy ordering counter and the dining section. It was busy, but not packed. She shouted, 'Excuse me, we have an announcement to make!' Then I stepped up and started talking. Alie and Monica walked around and handed out flyers. My palms were sweaty and my stomach a little bit butterfly-y. I only talked for a minute, maybe two. I was loud! Some people snickered. Some people looked interested. Some people tried to ignore us. When I stopped talking, I went to the counter and asked to speak with the manager. The woman at the counter looked kinda frazzled and said, 'He's right there, behind you.'
I turned around, and a man and a woman in regular, not McD's uniform clothes, were standing right there. We talked for a while. Sometimes they seemed like they were listening, sometimes they didn’t. They said some pretty messed up stuff. I think I made a few good points. I think I somehow maintained a balance between polite and confrontational. At the very least, the customers heard what we had to say, and in the end I walked out of there feeling really really good.
I don’t know what this means for the next time I go into a McDonald's – maybe I’ll feel shy again and have to go to half a dozen places before I find my voice. But it made me realize that the power of a fast food restaurant to make me feel small and insignificant is not something to be underestimated. I think that is a big part of why the SFA is so important. We are not small and insignificant. We are more than consumers. When we find our voices, we can make some serious changes. That’s why organized days when people across the country find and use their voices together is a big step toward change.
I know there are a lot of strong, confident people in the SFA. But I’m pretty sure there are a few people out there like me, who are strong and confident, but who can still be scared and intimidated by a stupid restaurant. For these people, I hope this was a useful report back, and I hope everyone’s days of action were empowering and fun and interesting.
PO Box 603, Immokalee, FL 34143 :: (239) 657-8311 :: organize (at) sfalliance.org