People in France are fighting to save McDonald's store which is the main employer in the poor town of Marseille

For decades, McDonald's was the brand that French people liked to hate.

From the 1970s it was accused of being an exporter of mold bouffe ("Bad food") to the land of good food, the blame for introducing millions of French for high calorie American fast food.

It was also resisted as a symbol of the economic and cultural imperialism of the US, particularly by left wing, in a country that still distrusts globalization – and more than most of them like to defend its own language and culture.

The French peasant and the one-time presidential candidate Jose Bove built a political career through his opposition to McDonald's, who destroyed him in 1999 a restaurant in the south of France.

And the resistance to the golden arches remains: a mayor on the island of Oléron in western France has fought famously to keep the company out, and the brand is still a favorite target of anti-capitalist demonstrators during street demonstrations.

But in a whirlwind of events that choke French food purists, campaigners, including local legislators, have mobilized to save a restaurant in one of the poorest suburbs of the southern city of Marseille.

"From the outside, it may seem like another restaurant," local MP and hard-line leader Jean-Luc Melenchon said last month during a visit to the outlet where he was welcomed and applauded.

"But it is the only place where something is going on in this area, where you can have a drink or have a bite to eat with friends."

The campaign to prevent the "McDo", as it is known in France, is closed – local socialist and even communist party figures have joined Melenchon – is an unusual development for politicians who are better known for their opposition to multinational businesses.

But it has also served to emphasize how the American fast food chain has become a pillar of the local community, underlining the lack of other facilities and economic opportunities in the deeply deprived suburbs of France.

& # 39; There is only this, & # 39; said a local, Farida Mameri, as she arrived with her children.

"This area without McDonald's? There would be nothing, if you meet someone, it's here, there's nothing else."

The restaurant is located next to the partly completed L2 main road in the rugged northern suburb of Saint-Barthelemy, a multi-ethnic district with a large Muslim population and some of the city's poorest residential areas.

McDonald's is the second largest formal employer in the area with its 77 employees, after a local supermarket chain say trade unionists.

Residents complain about how shops and businesses have been gradually eliminated while drug addicts flourished – providing lucrative and dangerous opportunities for unemployed local men.

Marseille remains an important gateway for drugs arriving from Europe in North Africa, causing deadly grass wars between Kalashnikov-wielding gangs that are a plague for the lives of local families.

In May, amateur video viral with several masked men was armed with machine guns running through a residential area in nearby Busserine, where police and journalists are often reluctant to enter.

Since the opening in 1992, the McDonald's helped to stop part of the crime, say workers and campaigners.

"McDonald & # 39; s has somewhat stopped me **, if you want to excuse the term," said Nordine Aklil, a 27-year-old employee.

"I had come out of prison and McDonald's basically offered me rehabilitation.

"It also allowed me to have more stability in my life."

Salim Grabsi, a member of a working class collective in the area called SQPM, agreed that the company had played a "social role" among its previous managers.

"Young girls and young boys who do not have an internship, they end up here", he explained.

"If children are no longer interested in school, or if they no longer want to go to school, to prevent them from ending up in drugs, their first job is often at McDonald's."

At stake is the endangered closure of the restaurant by the current operator, a franchisee named Jean-Pierre Brochiero who owns the restaurant in a 50-50 joint venture with McDonald's France.

He claims that the site is loss-making – what the branch's employees dispute – and wants to sell it to a company in Tunisia that would open an Asian Halal restaurant that targets the local Muslim population.

Employees who have been protesting for months are of the opinion that the takeover plan is a trick to prevent them from having to pay their severance payments and that they have gone to court to prevent the transaction.

"As poorly paid as they are, as bad as the working conditions at McDonald's, their entire lives have been built around this job," said a lawyer who represents the staff after a court hearing on Monday.

"The whole life of the neighborhood has been built around this restaurant, McDonalds must be aware of this and they must also be honorable here."

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