Dozens of fast food workers at some of the country’s largest chains, including McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Domino’s, walked off the job today in a coordinated campaign to highlight low wages and encourage unionization. The campaign is backed by community groups, civil rights groups, religious leaders, and a labor union, the Service Employees International Union.
Workers are protesting what they said are low wages and retaliation against those workers who have backed unionization among the thousands of fast food worker in New York City. Coordinators claim this is the first multi-restaurant strike by fast food workers in American history, and promised further action as unions make in-roads into the traditionally anti-union fast food industry.
Over the decades there have been efforts to unionize single fast-food restaurants or chains, but there has never before been an effort to unionize multiple restaurants at one time. The new campaign states advocates raising low wages and reducing the disparities of income inequality.
CUNY sociology professor Ruth Milkman said, “These jobs have extremely high turnover, so by the time you get around to organizing folks, they’re not on the job anymore.”
Hostess announced Tuesday night that it failed to reach a new agreement with BCTWGM, and union officials said the company plans to proceed with shuttering its operations after 82 years in business.
18,500 workers will lose their jobs overnight, adding more grist to the grind of the jobless recovery. Today’s announcement came four days after the company announced that its liquidation, which many observers believed was all but assured by the union’s strike.
The firm filed for bankruptcy last January because its labor costs were unsustainable and that it needed to cut its wage, health and pension costs to continue operating—despite the questionable practice of paying executives gross compensation packages for an otherwise struggling company.
In a stinging defeat of the Republican’s national agenda to undermine workers’ rights, voters in the state of Ohio roundly rejected a ballot initiative that would have limited public unions. Specifically, the law would require union members to pay 15 percent of their health care costs, as well as stripped them of their right to collective bargaining.
With 97 percent of the precincts in Ohio reporting, the law was rejected by 61 percent of voters compared to 39 percent who supported it. The vote was closely watched by other states who are contemplating similar measures in order to force unions to help them reign in budget deficits.
However, the short-sightedness of such measures, which were passed in Wisconsin last year and failed to pass in Indiana, must be pointed out. If workers in the public sector are stripped of their rights, like workers in private sector, all workers will lose as more power over wages, employment conditions, and job benefits are ceded to employers. While corporate profits are at record highs in spite of the dismal recession and anemic labor market, real wages for working individuals and families continues the pace of its decades long decline.
It should be apparent to many working people in America that the social contract is broken, and that the ideal of equality of opportunity is tarnished in an economic environment in which the wealthiest makes gains at the expense of the least well-off. If America wants to return its economy to a position of competitiveness, this will not happen with macroeconomic magic tricks like “quantitative easing” or new social media that allow morons to tweet their dinner preferences. Americans must demand better wages, better working conditions, and a new social contract that is committed to redistributing the benefits and burdens of capitalism according to our ideals of justice.