On NPR's always-excellent Rough Translation podcast comes an incredibly complex and nuanced story (MP3, transcript) about marginalized, racialized people in public housing in Marseille who found an accepting haven in a local McDonald's franchise, and who banded together to save it — and other nearby McD's — in a series of direct actions ranging from occupation to threats of self-immolation.
The story is complex in part because the McDonald's restaurant becomes a symbol for the things the French left normally fights for — inclusion, work with dignity, worker's rights — while the primary villain of the story is another racialized French person who became rich by working his way up from poverty and discrimination in French public housing through McDonald's, and who wants to shut down the heroes' franchise because he resents their conception of the restaurant as a place that they have a legitimate claim over, rather than as a place where they go to take orders and collect a paycheck.
And while McDonald's corporate is painted in a good light for its acceptance of people who face systematic discrimination in French society, it is also totally unwilling to take the side of workers who believe that their labor entitles them to a say in the business's future, with corporate going so far as to support the closure of profitable restaurants in order to shed empowered workers.
It's beautifully told, dramatic, and nuanced — a delightful tale and a parable about the complex moment we're all living through at the moment.
On this episode, we hear from residents of an immigrant neighborhood in Marseille, France who considered their local McDonalds to be a home of sorts, as well as a gateway into French society. So when the owner tries to sell it, they mount a mini-revolution and take extreme measures to try and save it.
Liberté, Égalité and French Fries [Rough Translation]
(Image: Eleanor Beardsley/NPR)