The biggest fast food strike yet – a title that's been set and eclipsed repeatedly in the past year – is happening across the country today, with workers in 60 cities reported by organizers to have walked out of their fast food (and, in some cases, retail) jobs. The workers are calling for a living wage of $15 an hour and for the right to form a union without intimidation or retaliation, to counter the disrespect they meet daily.
In every strike, workers cite a simple fact: They cannot live on the $7.25 or $8 they are paid, especially with unpredictable part-time schedules that make their paychecks vary wildly from week to week, especially when they have children to care for or tuition to pay. But they also have stories of gratuitous mistreatment, from being forced to work off the clock to insults to injuries on the job without proper care. It's things as simple as the tip you think you're giving Dunkin Donuts workers in Madison, Wisconsin:
Equally frustrating, [worker Meghan Ford] says, is that employees are not able to keep the money that customers put in what looks very much like a tip jar on the counter. Instead, management collects the money and buys small prizes, such as gift cards, to distribute to well-performing employees.
I'm striking as a step forward. I'm striking because power concedes nothing without a demand. I'm striking because I have a dream. I'm striking because another world is not only possible, but worth fighting for. I'm striking because the only way to see a different future is to stand up, and gaze over the walls of what people say can't be done. I believe we can win, and that as we stand here, on the shoulders of giants and masses, we can see a better world in embryo, nestled among a hundred workers wearing red shirts and singing, "Power to the union, power to the workers!"
Speaking of dreams, and to those who say that $15 an hour is too much to ask for: One of the demands of the 1963 March on Washington was a $2 minimum wage. In today's dollars, that's as much as $15.27 (or as "little" as $13.39). These workers are paying rent, supporting families, trying to get by and make lives for themselves, and in this system now and on the wages it allows hugely profitable corporations to pay, it is simply impossible.
Send striking fast food workers your message of solidarity.
Laura Clawson is Labor Editor of Daily Kos. She graduated from Wesleyan University, has a PhD in sociology from Princeton, and has taught at Dartmouth College and the Princeton Theological Seminary. She participated in the first AFL-CIO Union Summer and other political activities during college, In 2003, she discovered Daily Kos, which ultimately propelled her back into real-world political action. From 2008 to 2011 she was senior writer at Working America, community affiliate of the AFL-CIO.