Fast-food workers—in uniforms from restaurants like McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s—were arrested Thursday during a 150-city strike, as the fight for $15 and union rights intensified across the country. Thousands of cooks and cashiers walked off their jobs from more than 1,000 stores, chanting “We Believe That We Will Win,” and vowing to do whatever it takes to secure higher wages and union rights. Workers in New York City, who launched the Fight for $15 nearly two years ago, were among the first to get arrested, after blocking traffic in front of a McDonald’s in Times Square early Thursday morning. Workers were also arrested Thursday morning in Detroit and Chicago. All over the country, from Las Vegas to Little Rock, workers walked off their jobs and took arrest to show that they can’t wait any longer for companies like McDonald’s to raise their pay.
On Thursday, September 4th, fast food workers across the nation went on strike for a $15 an hour wage in more than 100 cities. For the last year fast food workers have been walking out and the campaign is building to what is the largest strike yet in the campaign. Reportedly, arrests are being made: in New York City already 21 have been arrested and in Detroit 50 were arrested. The campaign has been escalating in size and tactics, this is the seventh in a series of one-day strikes and civil resistance will be a major ingredient of the protests. The first fast food worker walk out was held in New York City in November, 2012. Also joining the protests were home care workers seeking a living wage. Home care workers will be joining the strikes in six cities: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit and Seattle. Workers are also complaining about working conditions, stolen wages and the need for collective bargaining.
But my experience is just one example of the situation for millions of restaurant workers in America today. All of America’s burglars, convenience store robbers, carjackers, muggers, and bank robbers combined don’t steal even half as much money as America’s top restaurant chains steal from their workers in a given year. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the U.S. Department of Labor had to recover $280 million in wages held by employers in 2012. That same year, the Department of Justice said the total amount of money stolen in robberies was $139 million. But since criminal restaurant chain executives aren’t being carted off to jail for their acts of robbery, restaurant workers will shut down their businesses by any means necessary this Thursday – including committing acts of civil disobedience.
We already know that so-called “free” trade agreements aren’t free — they hurt jobs and wages and are deeply irresponsible. Indeed, just two past “free” trade deals, NAFTA and China’s addition to the World Trade Organization, resulted in a net loss of almost 135,000 Florida jobs. In addition, when — and if — those workers got another job, their annual wages plummeted an average $13,500. That net loss cost Florida’s economy almost $2 billion in annual wages. The TPP will make things even worse because we’ll be competing with corporations relocating to countries like Vietnam, where the average minimum wage is a meager 56 cents per hour. This agreement will allow foreign corporations to sue the United States through international tribunals over nearly any laws that they allege would cut into their expected future profits. That includes laws designed to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food on our dinner tables.
As we enter the Labor Day weekend, many on the left will repeat the myth that Labor Day has no historical significance and is simply a “gift” from capitalist politicians to break up the international solidarity of American workers by providing an alternative to May Day. For many years, I accepted this myth, even while marching with my union comrades in the annual Labor Day Parades in Wilmington, California. Then I learned that the first Labor Day was in 1882, four years BEFORE Haymarket and eight years BEFORE the first international May Day in 1890. How, then, could it have originated as an alternative to May Day? A little historical research revealed a much different, and more complex. This research showed that both Labor Day and May Day grew out of American labor struggles in the 1880s and, surprisingly, that the same man, Peter J. McGuire (1852-1906), who founded the International Brotherhood of Carpenters, is claimed as the “father” of both Labor Day and May Day!
Today the American labor movement — like the rest of American society and like labor movements throughout the world — is being forced to grapple with global warming, climate chaos, and climate protection strategies. The future of labor’s growth and vitality will depend on its ability to play a central role in the movement to build a sustainable future for the planet and its people. Climate change changes everything: Everything about how we organize society, how we conduct politics, even how we think of progress. For us in the labor movement, it must change how we envision the role of an organized labor movement in society. Society will change – either through the effects of climate degradation or through a colossal struggle to avert it. Labor has to decide whether to fight the transition to a climate-safe society or to help lead it.
AtPeace Makita is a single mother of five, a life long resident of Detroit, and the Creative Director of the Detroit Water Brigade. She wants you to know that the push for the privatization of the water supply in Detroit could be coming to an area near you soon. “If Detroit can be used as a prototype,” asks Makita “why can’t it happen in LA, Chicago, or New York? On top of the bankruptcy, on top of the foreclosures, on top of the mayoral issues and emergency manager, on top of all of it – now you want to take our life source?”
The Market Basket situation is indeed, as many commentators have remarked, nearly unprecedented in the annals of American labor relations: When have we ever seen so many workers protest so vigorously for, rather than against, their boss! (For those new to the story, the New England supermarket chain has been wracked by massive employee protests, organized without any union involvement, after a faction of the family that owns the chain took control and ousted extremely popular CEO Arthur T. Demoulas. The mobilization in support of the former chief executive has resulted in nearly empty shelves and the mobilization of angry communities of formerly happy customers.) But beneath the surface of the singular job action, in which workers and community have banded together to demand the reinstatement of the former CEO, the conflict in New England points toward something much more fundamental: the need to build institutions that can sustain the kind of community- and worker-friendly business leadership that earned “good brother” Arthur T. such incredible loyalty. Happily, such institutions already exist, here in the United States. While undoubtedly not perfect as a form of workplace democracy, the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) offers a proven template for making the interest workers have in a thriving business part of the discussions about a company’s future.
Protesters gathered today in front of the St. Regis Hotel in New York City to call on Ralph Lauren to sign onto theAccord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh to improve workplace safety for garment workers. The protest preceded Ralph Lauren’s annual shareholders meeting where the AFL-CIO Reserve Fund (its investments) had a proposal on the ballot related to human rights reporting. At today’s shareholder meeting, Nazma Akter, president of the Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation, representing 70,000 workers, spoke to the protesters and called on Ralph Lauren join with more than 180 brands that have agreed to participate in the Accord. The Accord is a binding and enforceable agreement that represents a new model in supply chain accountability and risk management. Other programs to audit and monitor for workers’ safety follow the same model that has failed the hundreds of workers who have died in preventable garment factory fires and building collapses over the past 20 years.
SHIFT CHANGE is a documentary film by veteran award-winning filmmakers Melissa Young and Mark Dworkin. It tells the little known stories of employee owned businesses that compete successfully in today’s economy while providing secure, dignified jobs in democratic workplaces. With the long decline in US manufacturing and today’s economic crisis, millions have been thrown out of work, and many are losing their homes. The usual economic solutions are not working, so some citizens and public officials are ready to think outside of the box, to reinvent our failing economy in order to restore long term community stability and a more egalitarian way of life. There is growing interest in firms that are owned and managed by their workers. Such firms tend to be more profitable and innovative, and more committed to the communities where they are based. Yet the public has little knowledge of their success, and the promise they offer for a better life.
Stop Patriarchy’s highly theatrical, non-violent yet confrontational style has not endeared them to all activists in Texas fighting for reproductive justice. In fact, a coalition has formed whose sole purpose is to oppose Stop Patriarchy. Texans for Reproductive Justicehas published a Letter of Concern, opposing “Stop Patriarchy’s messaging, tactics, dishonesty, and racism.” Stop Patriarchy has seen this type of resistance before.
Diane Derzis runs the only remaining abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi. Speaking to Acronym TV on background for this episode, Dianne told us she was “warned about Stop Patriarchy” before they came to defend her clinic during the 2013 Abortion Rights Freedom Ride. Derzis, who now sits on the Abortion Rights freedom Ride advisory board noted that one reason people fear Stop Patriarchy is because their leader, Sunsara Taylor, is a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party.
The deal between Staples and the U.S. Postal Service jeopardizes mail service and the viability of local post offices. In fact, post offices across the country are at risk — along with thousands of good jobs. The Staples deal will replace full-service U.S. Post Offices with knock-off post offices in Staples stores that are not staffed with U.S. Postal Service employees. Consumers have a right to post offices staffed by workers who are accountable to clientele and topostal services provided by highly trained Postal Service employees, who are sworn to safeguard your mail. The Staples deal is bad for consumers, who will pay the same for less service. And if Staples and the USPS move forward with this deal, it could lead to the end of the Postal Service as we know it. In the meantime, the Staples deal is replacing good-paying jobs that our communities depend on with low-wage, non-union jobs that hurt our economy.
Can you name the worst job you’ve ever had? For Cliff Martin, that’s not an easy question. All three of his current jobs—delivering newspapers, delivering magazines and working as a janitor—are strong contenders. Taken together, they pay so poorly that the 20-year-old Northfield, Minnesota, native relies on MNsure, the state Medicaid plan, for healthcare and lives at home with his father to save money. But what if Martin’s bosses had to fork over a fee to the state for paying him so badly? That money, in turn, could be used to help support Martin and his fellow low-wage workers in a variety of ways, from direct subsidies for food and housing to social programs such as Medicaid or public transportation. Take Action Minnesota, a network that promotes economic and racial justice in the state, wants to make that fee a reality. It’s developing the framework for a bill that it hopes will be introduced in 2015 by state legislators who have worked with the network in the past. As conceived, the “bad business fee” legislation would require companies to disclose how many of their employees are receiving public assistance from the state or federal government. Companies would then pay a fine based on the de facto subsidies they receive by externalizing labor costs onto taxpayers.
Yesterday many of Southern Illinois’s elected officials, and representatives of the fossil fuel industry, held a one-hour press conference to complain about the fact that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has still not completed the rule-making process in order for fracking to begin in Illinois. Fracking is a controversial process used to drill for oil & gas. Millions of gallons of water, mixed with toxic chemicals and sand, are injected into mile-long horizontal wells at high pressure to fracture rock layers and release oil and gas. It is important that the public is aware of the dangers inherent in fracking jobs.
Pension cuts were approved in a landslide, according to results filed shortly before midnight Monday. The tally from 60 days of voting gives the city a boost as Judge Steven Rhodes determines whether Detroit’s overall strategy to eliminate or reduce $18 billion in long-term debt is fair and feasible to all creditors. General retirees would get a 4.5 percent pension cut and lose annual inflation adjustments. They accepted the changes with 73 percent of ballots in favor. Retired police officers and firefighters would lose only a portion of their annual cost-of-living raise. Eighty-two percent in that class voted “yes.”