U.S. fast-food strikes

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U.S. fast food strikes

A series of rotating protest-strikes by fast-food workers which began in November 2012 in New York City, USA, has become national in scope, as of summer 2013, with strikes in eight cities including Chicago, Detroit, and Washington DC as well as New York, on 29 July;[1] and in about 60 cities, including Tampa and Raleigh in the Southeastern part of the country, and Los angeles and San Fransisco in the Southwest, in addition to New York, Detroit, and other Northern cities, on 29 August.[2] Unlike the older style of industrial strike, which involved a lengthy cessastion of work by employees and an attempt to shut down the plant, these are brief demonstrations in front of or inside the place of work (restaurant), with employees from various restaurants in a city typically taking part in the demonstrations at each others' places of employment. Jobs in the service sector, such as the restaurant industry, have proven difficult to organize by conventional trade union and strike methods in the past.

The workers in the present round of strikes are demanding wage increases and the opportunity to form unions without harrassment. Fast food workers in the US generally work at or near theminimum legal wage, and many complain they can not get their employers to give them enough hours of work to enable them to earn enough to meet basic living expenses.

According to Karen McVeigh of The Guardian, their situation has deteriorated compared to half a century ago:

Every day, she puts on the shirt McDonald's provides her with and a pair of work pants of her own and goes to work serving burgers for $7.40 an hour. Clark, 47, is paid less per hour in real terms than the lowest paid US workers were half a century ago, when, on 28 August 1963, hundreds of thousands of citizens flooded into Washington for the historic march for freedom and jobs for black Americans.

One of the marchers' demands was a minimum wage raise from $1.25 to $2, reflecting their belief that the wage floor did not enable hardworking men and women to live in dignity. In today's dollars, that would represent a raise from $8.37 to $13.39, according to a report by the Economic Policy Institute this week, substantially less than the minimum wage of $7.25 today.

Clark works between 36 and 40 hours a week to give her daughters, Crystal, 14, and Veronique, 15, and their brother, André, 16, a decent roof over their heads. But she takes home around $800-$1,000 a month, wages so low the government subsidises her earnings with food stamps.[3]

Women make up two-thirds of workers in the fast-food industry in the US. A quarter of US fast-food workers have dependent children.[4]

The median wage for front-line fast-food workers in the US is $8.94 an hour, according to the National Employment Law Project, an advocacacy group for workers. A typical US fast-food worker earns around $11,200 a year, according to Fast Food Forward, a group which has organized some of the strikes.[5]

Traditional labor unions, and church groups, have been supporting the strikes. The Trinidad and Tobago Guardian reports that: "The Service Employees International Union, which represents more than 2 million works in health care, janitorial and other industries, has been providing financial support and training for local organisers around the country."[6]

Notes

  1. Karen Mc Veigh, "Fast-food workers continue fight against low wages" (see #Sources for details).
  2. Karen McVeigh, "US fast-food workers stage nationwide strike in protest at low wages".
  3. "Fast-food workers continue fight agains low wages."
  4. McVeigh, "Fast-food workers continue fight aginst low wages"
  5. These hourly and yearly figures both reported by McVeigh, "US fast-food workeres stage nationwide strike."
  6. "Fast-food strikes in US cities nationwide over pay" Friday, August 30, 2013

Sources

Adam Gabbatt, "US fast food workers walk out in organised strike against low wages", The Guardian, Monday 29 July 2013 17.00 BST

Karen McVeigh, "Fast-food workers continue fight against low wages", The Guardian, Thursday, Aug 29, 2013, 13.34 BST.

Karen McVeigh, "US fast-food workers stage nationwide strike in protest at low wages", The Guadian, Thursday, Aug 29, 2013, 18.54 BST.

Trinidad and Tobago Guardian, "Fast-food strikes in US cities nationwide over pay", Friday, August 30, 2013