Fast Food Strike Wave Spreads to Detroit
Organizers say that over a hundred workers joined the St. Louis strike betweenand . That included a group of Jimmy John’s workers who alleged that management humiliated them by requiring them to hold up signs in public with messages including “I made 3 wrong sandwiches today” and “I was more than 13 seconds in the drive thru.” “Sometimes I walk for more than an hour just to save my train fare so I can spend it on Ramen noodles,” St. Louis Chipotle worker Patrick Leeper said in an e-mailed statement . “I can’t even think about groceries.”
A spokesperson for Jimmy John’s declined to comment on Thursday’s strike; McDonald’s and Wendy’s did not respond to inquiries last night.
As I’ve written elsewhere, the fate of the fast food strike wave carries far-reaching implications: Fast food jobs are a growing portion of our economy, and fast food-like conditions are proliferating in other sectors as well. Organizers say the fast food industry now employs twice as many Detroit-area workers as the city’s iconic auto industry. These strikes also come at a moment of existential crisis for the labor movement, a sobering reality that was brought into sharp relief in December when Michigan, arguably the birthplace of modern US private sector unionism, became the country’s latest “Right to Work” state.
Along with a shared significant supporter – SEIU – the campaigns in New York, Chicago, St. Louis, and Detroit have apparent strategies in common. Rather than waiting until they’ve built support from a majority of a store’s or company’s workers, they stage actions by a minority of the workforce designed to inspire their co-workers. Rather than publicly identifying the campaign and its organizers with a single international union, these union-funded efforts turn to allied community groups to spearhead organizing. Rather than training all their resources on a single company, they organize against all of the industry’s players at once. And - faced with legal and economic assaults that haveweakened the strike weapon – these campaigns mount one-day work stoppages that are carefully tailored to maximize attention and minimize, but not eliminate, the risk that workers will lose their jobs.
Whether these strategies can ever compel a fast food giant to negotiate with its employees remains to be seen.
“After what I would consider well over three decades of wage suppression, workers in this particular industry - and then I think it’ll go to others - are realizing that their only way up the wage ladder is through their own organizations,” CUNY labor studies lecturer Ed Ott said. Ott, a board member of the community organizing group that spearheaded the New York fast food strike, added, “The only way these workers are going to be able to advance these jobs is through unionization. And I think that idea has finally gotten traction.”
1-day fast-food worker strike comes to Detroit
Detroit Free Press
May 10, 2013
Workers at a fast-food restaurant on Detroit's east side have walked off the job as part of an effort to push for higher wages.
Detroit pastor Charles Williams II says workers want $15 an hour, better working conditions and the right to unionize. The one-day protest starting Friday morning at a McDonald's is one of about 50 that organizers say they've planned around Detroit.
The D15 campaign says many workers make $7.40 an hour or just above it.
A message seeking comment from a representative of the restaurant was left this morning by the Associated Press.
Workers at more than 30 fast-food restaurants in St. Louis walked off the job Thursday in a similar one-day strike. That followed strikes at fast-food chains in New York and Chicago.
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