Fast food workers have staged one-day walkouts in cities across the country this week, calling for $15 an hour wages and the right to unionize. Workers in New York City, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Kansas City, Detroit, and Flint joined in this week, and Seattle workers picketed without walking out. While the strikes remain small in the context of the gigantic fast food industry, they are growing and spreading and, Steven Greenhouse reports, they're
not following the usual organizing script
. Rather, they "carry the flavor of Occupy Wall Street protests" and:
The strategists know they want to achieve a $15 wage, but they seem to be ad-libbing on ways to get there. Perhaps they will seek to unionize workers at dozens of restaurants, although some labor leaders scoff at that idea because the turnover rate among fast-food employees is about 75 percent a year. Or the strategists and strikers might press city councils to enact a special “living wage” for fast-food restaurants. Or perhaps by continually disrupting the fast-food marketplace from counter to counter across the country, they can get McDonald’s, KFC and others to raise wages to end the ruckus. The protests’ organizers acknowledge that yet another goal is to push Congress to raise the federal minimum wage and pressure state legislatures to raise the state minimums.
Crucially, the workers aren't asking for charity. They're organizing to build power and demand what they deserve; "These companies aren’t magically going to make our lives better," one worker told Greenhouse. Another
told In These Times
' David Moberg:
“I’ve always dreamt about a moment like this,” says Terrance Wise, a 34-year old fast food worker and father of three in Kansas City. “But what am I going to do by myself? There’s strength in numbers. It’s a beautiful thing, a positive thing, that’s going to change this country. … My job should be a good job.”
There are many forms of change that would improve these jobs and these workers' lives, in other words. But the only way change comes is through worker power, through strength in numbers—neither McDonald's and Taco Bell nor Republicans in Congress and state legislatures will raise wages unless they're forced to do so.
Tell these brave fast food workers that you stand in solidarity with them.