The people of Tecoma, a quiet town 40 kilometers east of Melbourne, have achieved something people all around the world should take note of: They have taken a stand against one of the world’s largest multinational corporations and are winning!
Residents of the small town have been campaigning against the construction of a McDonald’s fast food restaurant since 2010. According to campaign activists, 9 out of 10 residents are opposed to the development, believing that the restaurant is not keeping with the town’s character and will result in various problems for the community.
The development is so unpopular that the local council received 1,170 objections, leading to councillors voting 9 to 0 against the project. However, like most developers, McDonald’s ignored the wishes of the local community and challenged the council ruling in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) in mid 2012.
VCAT, a notoriously pro-developer court, overturned the council decision and gave McDonalds the go ahead.
At this point, some would have expected the community to admit defeat, but instead they decided to stand together and fight back against the undemocratic VCAT ruling and the fast food giant.
From then on the community began holding meetings to organise and come up with a fighting strategy. They moved the battle away from the courts and onto the streets.
When demolition of the old Hazel Vale dairy, the site where McDonalds plans to build, began the community formed picket lines as demolition machines prepared to move in.
Within the first week of picketing, the community had an initial victory as their actions forced the union to stop work on the site. Construction workers from the CFMEU then agreed to not cross the picket line, citing safety concerns and sympathy with the protesters’ concerns.
Due to the successful community picket and growing support for the campaign, McDonald’s confirmed that there would be a temporary delay in construction. Campaign spokesperson, Garry Muratore stated that the picket line would remain until McDonald’s left for good.
A handful of protesters had been camping on the roof of the old dairy, but this rooftop sit in had ended in mid July after eight of the protestors were served with writs for trespass.
With so much growing support for their campaign these protesters should feel justified to ignore the court orders and continue and grow their occupation. Since the injunction protestors have stepped down form the roof but have vowed to continue to blockade the site.
As of the beginning of August no work had resumed on the site, but it is clear that McDonald’s plans to push ahead with the development.
This inspiring example of a community mobilising to fight against the inappropriate development of a fast food giant has many important lessons in it. The first lesson is that organised, militant community action is an effective way to fight back against big business greed and the undemocratic court system.
The challenge now is to build further support for the campaign. Mass action is the key to beating developers back. The Socialist Party applauds the bravery and determination of those involved so far and stands in solidarity with those vowing to fight on.
By Aishwarya Ramji