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Striking fast food workers and supporters rally in front of a midtown Manhattan McDonald's. Early morning, November 29, 2012.
The first, historic fast food strike was November 29, 2012, in New York City. Now it's spread across the country to 100 cities.
Today is expected to be the biggest day yet of the fast food strikes that have swept the country for the past year, with walkouts planned for 100 cities. By now, fast food and retail workers have held one-day strikes in enough cities and enough times that it may be starting to seem almost routine, but it's important to remember how unprecedented this is: Just over a year ago, the strike by 200 New York City fast food workers was a historic event, and every escalation—like today's—similarly represents something new. What's not new are the reasons workers give for striking or the intimidation and retaliation they face for their actions:
“I’m tired of trying to make ends meet and they’re not meeting …” Richmond, Va., Burger King employee Crystal Travis told Salon in a pre-strike interview. “I don’t make enough to even have Christmas.” Richmond is one of dozens of cities where fast food strikes are expected today for the first time. Prior to her three years at Burger King, Travis said she’d spent a decade working at fast food chains including Wendy’s and McDonald’s, and found “not much of a difference” between them. When she first watched last year’s New York walkout, Travis told Salon, her question was, “Is it real? Are they going to make a difference?” But having watched the strikes spread,  said Travis, “you see a reflection of yourself.” Travis, who’d never struck before today, has been visiting fellow fast food workers who live in her public housing complex to urge them to join her, and said others have shown up at her door wanting to know more about the strike. She said her organizing efforts have drawn attention from her store’s general manager, who told her in front of co-workers, “You’re crazy. Ain’t nothing gonna change.”
It's a guarantee that nothing will change—except maybe for the worse—if workers don't fight. Fighting is an uphill battle given the differential in power between giant, profitable corporations and low-wage workers struggling to make ends meet. But building worker power is the only choice if these particular workers want to have a chance at getting ahead, and it's the only real chance at stopping the economic race to the bottom in the country more generally.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 06:26 AM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  NYPost says they are all "rent a mobs" (6+ / 0-)

    "The poor can never be made to suffer enough." Jimmy Breslin

    by merrywidow on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 06:40:27 AM PST

  •  I sincerely hope this leads to real change. (15+ / 0-)

    Raising the wages of these workers would help them, would help the government (by reducing the need to pay them benefits to supplement their ridiculously low wages), and would help the broader economy by putting more money in the pockets of people who will spend it.

    Let's do it now!

    •  Isn't that the truth! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ian Reifowitz, conniptionfit, Patango

      These fast-food-chains are hurting not just their own employees ---but they are hurting this entire country.

      Penywise---or so they think---and absolutely pound foolish.

      They need to pay their employees a living wage that's fair---something that people can actually live-on.

      Starvation-deprivation wages---and the supplementing of these wages is hurting all of us.

      We need to starve the Beast.

      Empty pockets and empty calories provides no nourishment of any kind.

      "The people who were trying to make this world worse are not taking the day off. Why should I?”---Bob Marley

      by lyvwyr101 on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 06:53:50 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Most fast food businesses are franchises (3+ / 0-)

    which means that the workers' battle for higher wages and better working conditions are not facing a "differential in power between giant, profitable corporations" and themselves.  They're facing a franchise owner who presents a much lower power differential, even if that owner controls more than one franchise.  These workers are not  fighting the franchising corporation itself.

    Franchise owners already pay different wage rates to same-level employees in different parts of the country, and wage rates are almost never dictated by franchise contracts with the parent company.

    "In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican." - H. L. Mencken

    by SueDe on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 06:48:44 AM PST

    •  Yup. An veritable army of small businesspeople. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      And, ironically, a number of them came up through the ranks, encouraged and helped by older franchisees for whom they once worked.

      Where I used to live up in Illinois, several local franchises were owned by the first (or nearly first -- I can't remember) minority McDonald's franchisee.  They built a veritable mini-museum in one of their locations and had some of the slickest Micky D's around -- right on down to having one of those transparent flat screen TV's going.

      I woujld bet the spectrum of treatment out in the franchises is a whole lot wider than in the corporate stores.  I imagine some owners are pretty decent and some would make the devil look sweet.

      One thing's for sure:  There is no single pressure point, and that changes the nature of the solution.

      LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

      by dinotrac on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 07:00:49 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  decent or not if every fast food outlet has to pay (0+ / 0-)

        $15 the good owners won't be at a disadvantage.

        The very longtime owners of both McDonalds in Boulder are AA.

        “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

        by ban nock on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 07:52:31 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yup. I've got to wonder, though... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ban nock

          $15 might not be the magic number, I know nothing about restaurants., but it seems that better employees translate into better service with fewer complaints and returns = more revenue.  At some point, that's got to let you beat cheesy misers who pay less.

          LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

          by dinotrac on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 07:58:22 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  One solution would be to enforce trickle down (0+ / 0-)

            Have the corporate part do a profit share , better workers ,better restaurants, better local economy

            Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers

            by Patango on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 09:59:08 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  But how do you do that? (0+ / 0-)

              The relationship between the corporation and the franchisees is contractual.

              Besides, franchisees in chains like McDonald's already have a lot of power. Not absolute,but a lot. They are after all, the profit centers -- and they do make a whole lot of money from their franchises. Average McDonalds franchise makes something in the general neighborhood of a million dollar profit (not sales) a year.

              LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

              by dinotrac on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 10:16:08 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

    •  This Is A Point That I Think Is Lost (0+ / 0-)

      On many people here i.e., the majority of Burger Kings (more than 90%) are not owned by Burger King Holdings.

      I won't be coming home tonight, my generation will put it right - Genesis 9:3

      by superscalar on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 07:03:12 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not owned by (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Heart of the Rockies

        Not owned by, but still contributing to the profits of.

        It's not as simple as "vs the giant faceless corporation", but it's not as simple as "vs the struggling small businessman" either.

        Part of the reason many franchisees are struggling is the franchise fees they pay. That's a chunk of "profits" not under the franchisee's control. They can change wages or prices or try to improve efficiency, but they can't do anything about what they have to pay the big company.

        The Empire never ended.

        by thejeff on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 07:33:57 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Sure they can. (0+ / 0-)

          They can "strike" too.  Demand a renegotiation of their contracts.  The entire point of franchising was to specifically insulate the corporations from the visicitudes of the free market economy.  The idea that the corporation has no control over the wages paid in their franchises is ludicrous.  They can amend their franchise contracts anytime they please.  The franchise owners are in exactly the same wage squeeze as their workers, trying to figure out how to pay their too high rent and bills for the business to their corporate overlords, and still have enough left to feed the people they are responsible for.  That system was set up so that each party, the corporation and the franchisee can say "it's not my fault".  Well, it is.

          •  I think we agree? (0+ / 0-)

            The franchise owners can fight to change the agreements, but they can't just do it one at a time. They'd need to organize for leverage. And the workers will need to push them to do that.
            The workers really are facing a "differential in power between giant, profitable corporations" and themselves. They're just doing it at a remove. Which makes it harder.
            They might do better trying to bring at least some of the individual owners on board and definitely by keeping the public focus on the giant corporation.

            The Empire never ended.

            by thejeff on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 08:11:47 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  It's -8 here now, cold day to strike (4+ / 0-)

    I'm going to stop by a couple places and see if it's happening. This is an issue I'll support by being there.

    “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

    by ban nock on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 06:48:44 AM PST

  •  YUM! Brands' CEO David Novak made $11.3 million (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, Bob Friend

    last year. Much of it off of the misery of his underpaid employees.

    "If Wall Street paid a tax on every “game” they run, we would get enough revenue to run the government on." ~ Will Rogers

    by Lefty Coaster on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 07:03:38 AM PST

  •  Fast food corporations (0+ / 0-)

    will not get my buck regardless. Power to the people and all, but I shop local. Primarily, I don't eat take out at all.

  •  It would help if the public (0+ / 0-)

    weren't obsessed with low prices.  Low prices mean low wages for both the workers and those who labor in factories (many unsafe) overseas.  Yes, the owners and stockholders are doing fine--more than fine--and could afford to pay higher wages and redistribute the profits to those who make them possible.  But the Black Friday mentality of more stuff at the lowest price also contributes.

    Good luck to the strikers.  Let's hope these strikers at retail establishments are the beginning of a trend towards livable wages.

    •  This is exactly right! If we as a country (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Heart of the Rockies
      It would help if the public weren't obsessed with low prices.  Low prices mean low wages for both the workers and those who labor in factories (many unsafe) overseas.
      could get over our addiction to low prices, we would consume less by buying less and they American made products wouldn't seem so costly.

      Example, I went to Duluth Trading to buy a leather backpack purse for my daughter for XMas.  ALL their products are imported.  So I googled leather purses made in the USA and found a great one made in New Hampshire that cost me about $30 more.  It is worth the extra for me.

      I get it that not everyone can do this, but if we can, we should:

      Buy local as much as possible
      Buy products made in the USA

  •  consumers can afford the extra 50cents for burger (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, KingBolete, ban nock, msdrown, elginblt

    They are saying the cost of an average burger will climb from 3 bucks to 3.50$

    So freaking what? Burgers will still be bought.
    The CEO of 'Castle Burgers? (never heard of it) says he will have to close half of 400 stores (as per the news on teevee this morning ?CNN/MSNBC?)



    Why do these idiots think they are irreplaceable?

  •  Tipped & rec'ed (0+ / 0-)

    nosotros no somos estúpidos

    by a2nite on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 07:34:19 AM PST

  •  There are at this time, 15 posts before mine.. (3+ / 0-)

    I looked for the word "union" and didn't find it.
    The best answer would be if they unionized.  Up to now - correction - a year ago with the 200-worker NYC strike - it seemed impossible for a union to take root.  The time may be upon us where there is enough momentum and enough energy to actually make that work.  
    Imagine the effect if most fast food workers in most large cities walked at the same time.  
    Here's hoping something permanent comes of this activity.
    I think private payroll unionization is ~7% now..  It was more than 35% in the 50's.  Look what has happened to the standard of living for those not in the top tier since that time.  

    Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

    by notKeith on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 07:43:00 AM PST

  •  Help please:) (0+ / 0-)

    Please help us put pressure on our Governor (Robert Bentley) to expand Medicaid (please use the phone number) Phone 334.242.7100 or fax   334.353.0004   Please support the citizens of Ala. (Medicaid expansion) please sign the petition

  •  good luck (0+ / 0-)

    sisters & brothers i'm with you now and have been protesting on my own for years now.

  •  The American People are On the March (0+ / 0-)

    The slumbering giant is awakening. Watch out, greedheads.

  •  Thanx for keeping us posted Laura and DKos nt (0+ / 0-)

    Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers

    by Patango on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 09:44:12 AM PST

  •  Again, I was there (0+ / 0-)

    for the 6AM start of the Pittsburgh PA action. Not that I wanted to drag myself out of bed before 5 this morning, but since I could, I had to. I'm not a fast food worker. I have benefits with my job, but still working to bring the union into the corporate conglomeration that is the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. I have to stand with anyone willing to take the chance and bring more unions and better jobs into this country. I'm extremely gratified we had such a great turnout at this action :) (photo album available at -#fastfoodstrikes Pittsburgh, PA)

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