Monday, July 29, 2013

Biggest wave of fast-food strikes begins today

Fast-food strike in New York City today.
A wave of fast-food strikes began in New York City today as workers prepare to walk off the job in seven more cities over the next few days. It is likely to be the biggest mobilization of low-wage workers since the short, sudden one-day job actions began in November.

Fast-food workers are striking in restaurants like McDonald's, Papa John's and Wendy's in New York City. More walkouts are planned for Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Mo., and Flint, Mich. The workers demand a living wage and the right to form a union without retaliation.

The success of previous fast-food strikes has given momentum to the growing movement for livable wages. Josh Eidelson, writing in Salon, spoke to a fast-food worker a month ago:
St. Louis Jimmy John’s employee Rasheen Aldridge told Salon that there “was a whole lot of nervousness” when he and three co-workers at his store first went on strike in May. “There was a big chance that I could of got fired,” said Aldridge, “because that’s just how, you know, fast food operates.” But when they returned to work in one piece, he said his co-workers’ reaction was “You know, you guys sort of took the step we all need to do.”
Today's walkout is generating national media attention, as The New York Times, broadcast and cable news networks and the financial press. Steven Greenhouse at The New York Times writes:
Often relegated to the background, America’s low-wage workers have been making considerable noise lately by deploying an unusual weapon — one-day strikes — to make their message heard: they’re sick and tired of earning just $8, $9, $10 an hour. 
Their anger has been stoked by what they see as a glaring disconnect: their wages have flatlined, while median pay for chief executives at the nation’s top corporations jumped 16 percent last year, averaging a princely $15.1 million, according to Equilar, an executive compensation analysis firm. 
In recent weeks, workers from McDonald’s, Taco Bell and other fast-food restaurants — many of them part-time employees — have staged one-day walkouts in New York, Chicago, Detroit and Seattle to protest their earnings, typically just $150 to $350 a week, often too little to support themselves and their families. 
Bloomberg News reports that low-wage jobs are the fastest growing sector of the U.S. economy:
The leisure and hospitality industry, which includes restaurants, is adding jobs faster than any other sector in the U.S. In June, the sector added 75,000 jobs, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Fast-food cooks make $9.02 an hour, or about $18,760 a year, on average, according to 2012 data from the Washington-based agency.
The problem of low wages isn't limited to fast-food workers. Today, Hope Yen at the Associated Press reported that 80 percent of adults in the United States struggle to earn enough money at some point in their lives:
Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream... 
Nationwide, the count of America's poor remains stuck at a record number: 46.2 million, or 15 percent of the population, due in part to lingering high unemployment following the recession.