Nearly two years ago, 200 fast-food workers in New York City walked off our jobs, calling for $15 and union rights. Our demand may have sounded crazy at the time, but more and more, $15 is becoming a reality for workers across the country. As we’ve gone on strike again and again and a movement that started here in New York has spread to 150 cities, $15 suddenly doesn’t seem so impossible. From Seattle to Los Angeles to San Francisco, and now, New York, cities are raising wages so we don’t have to rely on public assistance to support our families. “While he works with Gov. Cuomo to raise wages for all New Yorkers, Mayor de Blasio’s move today to put workers at city-subsidized projects on a path to $15 is a sign that we are winning.
USA Today reports on a new study by NPD Group, a market research firm, which finds that stagnant incomes are cutting into fast-food industry sales revenue and that “restaurants like McDonald’s are losing customers who are feeling the pinch of the tough economy.” Bonnie Riggs, a restaurant industry analyst at NPD, states that, “this is the type of thing that keeps restaurant executives up at night. The middle class is shrinking.” On the heels of recent news that McDonald’s posted the worst sales decline in more than a decade last August, Rick Munarriz in USA Today cites the fast-food workers’ movement as one reason why “McDonald’s is falling apart,” noting that “a lot of people think it’s not just the food that’s cheap at McDonald’s.”
The Coalition against BAYER Dangers (CBG) fears that the sale of Bayer MaterialScience will lead to negative consequences for the employees as well as a lowering of plant safety. CBG board member Jan Pehrke said: “Bayer’s management is putting the wellbeing of workers below the demands of the financial markets. The great sacrifices of the workers in recent years have been for nothing. We are afraid that in the long run jobs will be destroyed and wages will be lowered – as was the case with many other divestments.” CBG board member Philipp Mimkes fears the implications for plant safety: “The future owners will be tempted to reduce costs for maintenance, labour and fire service even further. This will automatically lead to a higher risk of incidents. Since Bayer MaterialScience operates some of the most dangerous industrial plants altogether – after nuclear power plants -, this is of utmost importance for the general public.
Air France (AF) canceled more than half its flights on day two of what may become the airline’s most disruptive strike since 1998, as pilots protest measures aimed at cutting costs. The airline flew 47 percent of scheduled flights as of 11 a.m. Paris time, more than yesterday’s 40 percent, as pilots walked out to protest plans to expand low-cost operations with flight crews paid less than at the main carrier. A strike planned for today by Deutsche Lufthansa AG (LHA) pilots was canceled.
Two union representatives were arrested and detained for several hours in Prey Veng province Wednesday as a nearly weeklong strike for better working conditions and bonuses continued at the Chinese-owned Komchay Mear Trading factory, police and unionists said. Sok Siem and Khhun Sokhom, both representatives of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (CCAWDU), were arrested at 6:40 a.m. as they led a protest in front of the factory, which managers said produces garments for the U.S. clothing giant Gap.
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.