Albion Monitor /News

McLibel Trial to Focus on Working Conditions, Pay

by Bruce Tober

60 witnesses down, 100 yet to be heard

LONDON -- With 60 witnesses already having taken the stand, the McLibel case resumed on 25 September at the British High Court.

Dave Morris and Helen Steel, unemployed green campaigners were sued by McDonald's Corp who claimed the six-page leaflets about the company which the two distributed contained false statements about its products and practices. The pamphlets were published by London Greenpeace.

Morris and Steel are simultaneously suing McDonald's for libel due to a leaflet it circulated at its British shops and which claimed the two were liars due to the claims in the Greenpeace brochure.

In British law, the accused has to prove the validity of the alleged libelous statements, rather than the company proving the falseness of them, as is the case in the United States.

Focus will be on the corporation's labor conditions, pay policies and attitudes towards trade unions

In what is already the country's longest lasting libel trial and by December will be the longest civil case ever tried in the UK, another approximately 100 witnesses are yet to be heard. Dan Mills, a press spokesperson for the McLibel defense team estimates the trial will continue until next April or June.

Of the 60 witnesses heard thus far, 18 have been defense witnesses and 42 were for the prosecution side, Mills told the Albion Monitor. As the trial resumes, the focus will be on the corporation's labor conditions, pay policies and attitudes towards trade unions.

However, McDonald's UK's head of communications, Mike Love told the Monitor he expects the trial to conclude "before next Easter." And Love expects only about a dozen witnesses to testify in the coming months, "Only 12 have confirmed that they will appear," he said.

Love is also confident of a verdict in favor of the prosecution will come down in the main action [McDonald's vs Morris and Steel]. "And if the decision goes our way, then the counter claim [by the defense] fails," he added.

Other issues expected to be dealt with in the coming months include cattle ranching and the environment and the leaflet itself.

The 16th of October marks the 11th Worldwide Anti-McDonald's Day

According to Mills, the negotiations initiated by McDonald's in June, to settle the case out of court, resulted in corporate directors flying in twice from Chicago to meet with the defendants.

Mills said the talks broke down because of the corporation's insistence that the defendants acknowledge the falsity of the leaflet's claims. The defense refused to make such acknowledgments.

Morris and Steel apparently never wavered from their pre-settlement-talks requirements that McDonald's agree to:

  • never again sue anyone for making similar claims to the ones in the leaflet

  • apologize to those they have sued in the past

  • pay substantial sums to a third party in lieu of the defendants' costs

    Love countered Mills' statements, noting that the offer to settle was made by McDonald's "at the opening of the trial, but the defendants weren't willing to accept the terms. Paul Preston, president of McDonald's has repeatedly noted that the offer has always been on the table," he concluded.

    Meanwhile, worldwide support for the defendants appears to be building and the negative publicity for the corporation has caused not the least bit of consternation to its directors.

    At its annual meeting last April, one board member is said to have spoken of the need to end the trial as damage control.

    Defense supporters worldwide have been disrupting filming of McDonald's advertisements, protesting outside McDonald's outlets, and raising funds to defray trial costs. In the UK, picketing is planned outside the High Court on the trial's opening day, leafletting of local McDonald's stores is planned for 12 October.

    Also, the 16th of October marks the 11th Worldwide Anti-McDonald's Day with still more picketing and leafletting planned. And from 8-9 November, while top corporate executives from McDonald's and other major corporations will be meeting inside, protestors will picket the "Management Summit 95" at the Park Lane Hotel in London.

  • Albion Monitor October 9, 1995 (

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