Fast food workerswill strike tomorrow in 150 U.S. cities and 30 cities overseas, escalating the movement for fair wages and the right to organize that now encompasses port truck drivers, warehouse workers, food processing workers, Walmart associates and government contractors.
Short, sudden strikes began in late 2012 against fast-food employers, but they have since grown to include a spectrum of low-wage workers joining together in job actions. Walmart workers, longshoremen and Teamsters held picket lines for striking port drivers recently, and a McDonald’s worker and UFCW member recently joined Teamsters and Taylor Farms workersin California’s state capital to push for a bill protecting temporary workers.
Decades of union-busting in this country lowered wages to the point where half the workers in America earn wages at or near the poverty level. Now tens of thousands of workers at a time are taking to the street to demand a fair day’s wage for a day’s work.
The movement is spreading across the world as fast food workers plan to protest tomorrow from Karachi to Casablanca. A flash mob is planned for the Philippines, a strike for Italy. And it goes beyond fast food workers overseas: Even today, British bus drivers are joining U.S. Teamsters who work for National Express at the company’s annual meeting to demand better treatment for its workers in America.
Digital Journal covered the announcement of tomorrow’s strike:
This latest showdown between the embattled fast food workers labor movement and the fast food industry is an escalation of a movement that started after the Great Recession of 2007-2009. The prevalence of low-paying jobs in the fast food industry became the main factor in the dissension shown by employees in many companies, especially those with international connections.
At a press conference in New York last week, the actions of the movement were made known after a gathering of union leaders and fast food workers from dozens of countries, called by the global union federation IUF (International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations) met to discuss the May 15 protest.
Though they dismiss the walkouts publicly, fast food employers are very, very concerned about the unrest among their workers. According to leaked documents, Josh Eidelson at Salon reports,
…(National Restaurant Association) President and CEO,Dawn Sweeney pledging “active engagement in responding to reputational attacks on our industry and the organized wage protests that have gained such traction in the last few months.”
Eidelson told Bill Moyers the fast food industry views the strikes as an unprecedented challenge:
These documents certainly have a different tone than the positions the industry has taken in public, where they have not only dismissed the merits of demands that include paying people $15 per hour and allowing workers to organize without intimidation, but they have also dismissed the relevance and the significance of these protests.
In private — in messaging to their members — we see them talking about the protests’ growing traction, we see them talking about the campaign becoming more coordinated, and we see them talking about how they’re going to push back. So it becomes very clear that the industry is aware that this is an unprecedented challenge.