Fast food workers are planning to take their protests to a new level Thursday as they take to the streets for the largest mass strike to date.
According to the New York Times, these protests will be different from previous protests in two ways. First, organizers are expanding their demonstrations’ locations, and participants. This time, protesters from both the fast food and health service industries will go on strike in 100 cities, and hold sit ins in over a dozen. Second, organizers plan to engage in and encourage civil disobedience as a way of getting the message out:
At a convention that was held outside Chicago in July, 1,300 fast-food workers unanimously approved a resolution calling for civil disobedience as a way to step up pressure on the fast-food chains.
“They’re going to use nonviolent civil disobedience as a way to call attention to what they’re facing,” said Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, which has spent millions of dollars helping to underwrite the campaign. “They’re invoking civil rights history to make the case that these jobs ought to be paid $15 and the companies ought to recognize a union.”
The SEIU is encouraging members of its health service union members to join protests in 6 of the 100 cities, hoping that diversifying participation will draw greater attention to the strikes.
These strikes are the result of a two year effort to force fast food chains to raise their minimum wage to $15 per hour, and to allow their employees to unionize. Earlier this summer the NLRB ruled to break through McDonald’s corporate-franchisee relationship in an attempt to conduct mass unionizations of entire chains all at once, as opposed to working through a company franchise by franchise. If that ruling is upheld by the courts, McDonald’s could be held liable for labor law violations at its thousands of locations.
CNN Money reports data suggesting that fast-food CEOs currently make 1,000 times more than the average worker in the industry, and that around 33% of fast food workers have spent at least some time in college. Additionally, 70% of fast food workers are over the age of 20, making it easy for organizers to quickly debunk arguments that “fast food jobs are for teenagers.” Whether or not that data holds true in the long run, union representatives are ready to emphasize the disparity between individual employee salaries and overall corporate profits as a way to whip up support.
During previous protests, the National Restaurant Association, the restaurant industry’s lobbying arm, has pointed out that only 5 percent of fast food workers earn the federal minimum wage and most employees earning entry-level wages are under 25. At least one fast food executives has claimed that a $15 per hour wage would kill jobs. It’s hard to say just how much a doubling of wages would affect menu prices because most individual fast-food locations are franchised to independent owners, whose financial data is private.
But strike organizers say these fast food chains can afford to share some of their large profits with workers. An analysis by TIME earlier this year found that profit margins for privately held fast-food businesses are on the rise. McDonald’s, the world’s largest fast food chain, had a $1.52 billion quarterly profit last quarter, up from $1.46 billion a year earlier. But same-store sales are flat for the fast food giant, which could lead to Wall Street pressure to lower costs, not increase them.
Unfortunately for organizers (and fortunately for corporations,) the effect of walkouts to date has been less fiscal and more fodder for media outlets looking for a social justice story.DONATE
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