A week ago we celebrated Labors Day Weekend which is a yearly celebration to honor labor workers in the workforce. Started as recognition to workers who embarked on social and political movements, the holiday was to remember what workers did in the past in order to better their livelihood and the livelihood of future generations who entered the labor workforce.
Continuing the social demonstration started by laborers of the past, last Thursday fast food workers from 159 different cities walked off of their jobs and protested for better wages and the right to unionize risking their jobs and being arrested to better their lives and other lives within the fast food industry.
The strike by workers in the fast food industry first began in New York City after Thanksgiving Day 2012. Over the last 21 months, workers have been campaigning for a $15 hourly wage and full labor rights that would protect fast food workers.
From Chicago to Kansas City, fast food workers and their supporters organized peacefully demonstrations to make their demands heard. The size of the strikes has grown considerably since they started over a year or so ago. And in accordance with the size of protest, the appearance of demonstrations has increased as well.
In August of 2013, a total of 60 cities took part in the fast food workers strike. Meanwhile, back in December 100 cities took part with an estimated 150 cities taking part in the fast food workers strike back in May. Over the last two years, the appearance of the strikes has been sporadic leaping from New York City to various cities across the country.
Thursday’s protest saw a further growth to the fast food workers strike. Usually using marches and demonstrations, protestors and their supporters used methods of civil disobedience and nonviolent protest in order to push forth their cause and hope to have their demands met. The current change to their tactic was discussed back in July when a gathering of more than 1,300 fast food workers came up with the new strategy.
While their tactics are nonviolent and peaceful, it didn’t deter law enforcement from arresting some fast food workers and their supporters.
Throughout the country-wide strike there was an estimated 50 arrests in Chicago; 42 arrests in Detroit; 52 arrests in Kansas City; 10 arrests in Las Vegas; and 11 arrests in Little Rock. The number of arrests was released by organizers of the strike.
At the strike held in Detroit it was reported that police officers had run out of handcuffs while attempting to arrest peaceful strikers who stood in the middle of traffic attempting to block it during their demonstration.
“We had over 100 people arrested, but however they respected every police officer,” said Pastor W. J. Rideout, who took part in the Detroit protest. “And we also chanted, ‘Police need a raise also.’ EMS need a raise, firefighters need a raise. So we’re not against anyone here, we’re against the corporations, we’re against McDonald’s.”
Among those arrested in during the demonstrations, Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI) was arrested with 25 workers and supporters within Milwaukee. Several other members of the House Progressive Caucus took part in the fast food workers strike within various as well, showing that some members of the government believe in what the fast food workers are doing.
While the strikes by fast food workers is for increased wages and labor rights, another purpose for the strikes is to ensure that corporations of the fast food chains are held accountable for the treatment of their workers throughout the majority of their fast food chain stores.
Recently, McDonald’s was found to be responsible for the treatment of its workers by the National Labors Relations Board. A decision that should be mandatory, but was only recently found because for decades McDonald’s and other fast food industries has used franchise agreements to ignore legal liability for labor violations committed onto employees by the fast food chain stores owner-operators.
This legal cause broke apart this summer when fast food workers’ attorneys presented evidence that McDonald is in fact responsible for setting the rules that chain stores followed. Rules in-which owner-operators of these chain stores used to commit wage theft of their employees by falsifying time sheets, forcing employees to work off-of-the-clock, and requiring workers to pay for their own uniform upkeep. These “rules” were just a few labor violations among other company practices.
With the surmounting pressure that fast food workers are placing on fast food companies, the ways in how the companies treat their fast food employees could eventually change thus bringing on a new environment for those who work in the industry.
One key piece of information, fast food workers who work the registers or food line are mostly adults or people who have a family support. These workers earn poverty wages that does not provide enough therefore they have to go on some form of public assistance in order to survive while even having a job. To make matters worse, it is reported that 9 out of 10 fast food workers reports being victimized by some form of wage theft.
To show the wage difference of fast food workers and the CEOs of these food chains, CEOs of fast food companies make an estimated 1,200 times more than their workers in the industry itself. But the fast food workers aren’t asking for a pay scale akin to their bosses. What they are asking for is a wage that is livable.
By increasing the wages of fast food workers, it does more good than actual harm. With fast food workers seeking public assistance programs to aid them it costs the American public somewhere over a billion dollars a year to aid these workers, and other workers who suffer poverty-like wages. The offering of a living-wage is far more beneficial than the current wage that is crippling.