French McDonald’s Workers Win Court Ruling Against Restaurant’s Sale
September 8, 2018
PARIS — Employees of a McDonald’s in a troubled Marseille neighborhood fighting to keep their restaurant open won a partial victory in court on Friday, their lawyer said.
A court in the port city ruled that the McDonald’s in the Saint-Barthélémy neighborhood, prized by its workers for providing an alternative to the area’s pervasive drug trade, could not be sold to a Middle Eastern foods operator, Hali Food, that the employees had never met.
That plan for the restaurant was being pushed by its current owner, a McDonald’s franchisee, as well as by the corporation.
The employees had argued that the McDonald’s plan represented a risk to their jobs, many of them long-held, and that this particular McDonald’s had played a vital social role in holding together their fragile neighborhood, far from the city’s bustling port.
They challenged the sale in court, and on Friday they celebrated the judges’ decision.
“It’s a partial but essential victory,” the workers’ lawyer, Ralph Blindauer, said. “Hali Food is finished, dead. They are going to have to reconsult the workers,” he said, at a McDonald’s that is unusual for having a strong union.
Still, the lawyer said it was unclear whether the restaurant would continue to be a McDonald’s. “I don’t know what McDonald’s is going to do. They can come back with another project,” he said.
A McDonald’s spokesman said in a statement that the franchisee who owned the restaurant would appeal, adding that the court’s decision did not take into account the “latest commitments made by the new owner” to “strengthen a project that would ensure both the jobs and the site.”
The workers, though, were jubilant. “We’re very relieved. The court believed the employees,” said Salim Grabsi, a local teacher and former employee who has led the fight to keep the McDonald’s operating as a branch of the American fast-food giant.
“For four months we haven’t eaten or slept,” he said. “We’re proud to be French. They’ve listened to the little folks in the neighborhood.”
The leader of France’s far-left party, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who represents Marseille in the French Parliament, congratulated the workers in a Twitter message on Friday: “Justice has been delivered to McDo Marseille! The crooked sale has been suspended!”
This week the top McDonald’s official for southern France, Sébastien Bordas, told the Agence France-Presse news agency that the only feature distinguishing the Saint-Barthélémy McDonald’s was “economic,” citing its losses.
Mr. Blindauer insisted these could now be reversed “rapidly,” because a neighboring highway construction project was virtually finished.