Thursday, August 29, 2013

August 29th: Fast Food Workers On Strike!

"Clarion Call Rings Throughout Nation: 'Low Pay Is Not OK'  Wave of fast food worker strikes resurges on Thursday with walkouts across the US"
2013-08-29 by Andrea Germanos from "Common Dreams" []:
Fast food workers in over 50 cities across the nation are striking on Thursday in what organizers are touting as the largest ever strike to hit the industry.
The workers are demanding $15 an hour and the right to unionize, continuing the calls and momentum of a series of strikes that first started in November of 2012 [].
Federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, but, as the Economic Policy Institute has pointed out [], "if the minimum wage had kept up with productivity growth [since 1968], it would now be $18.67 per hour."
In addition to fast food workers, workers at major retail chains including Macy’s, Sears, Victoria’s Secret and Walgreens are expected to take part in the strike as well.
“When I saw the strikes on TV earlier this summer in New York and Chicago, I said to my co-workers, 'We need to bring this to Durham,'” Willieta Dukes, a 39-year-old Burger King worker in North Carolina, said in a statement.  “And now we’ve brought the fight for $15 and a union not just to Durham, but to every corner of the country. The more of us who join together, the more powerful we are.”
Dukes, who makes $7.85 an hour, decided to go on strike for the first time in her life because she can't afford not to.  She writes in an op-ed []: [begin excerpt] We are walking off our jobs because we don't know how we are going to survive on these jobs. We're on strike because we can't afford not to strike. Burger King says they can't pay employees like me higher wages because it would force them out of business. Yet last year it made $117m in profits and its CEO took home $6.47m. It would take me 634 years to earn that much. I've worked in fast-food for 15 years, and I can't even afford my own rent payments. We just want fairness and to be able to provide for our families. No one who works every day should be forced to be homeless. [end excerpt]
Striking McDonald's worker Nick Williams, whose take-home pay is less than $800 a month, was outraged when he found out McDonald's made $5.5 billion in profits last year, telling Business Insider, "I felt completely betrayed because billions of dollars are extra and the people who work at McDonald's aren't making enough to live."
Highlighting the inequality further, Catherine Ruetschlin and Amy Traub of the public policy organization Demos write on Thursday []: [begin excerpt] Right now, fast food companies keep employees at poverty-level wages while reaping billions of dollars in profits for their shareholders every year. Across the economy this practice drives increasing inequality, slow growth, and declining living standards. It is holding back our economic recovery and contributing to our high poverty rates and rates of working poor. Americans deserve better. The fast food workers’ movement shows that there is a broad demand for change—one that is only getting stronger. [end excerpt]
Dearius Merritt, a striking Church’s Chicken assistant manager in Memphis, Tenn., also sees this as a growing movement with implications for years to come.
“It’s bigger than me and it’s bigger than the workers that are standing up. It’s not just going to help my generation, it’s going to help the next generation that’s going to come, and the generation after that,” said Merritt [].

"Fast Food Workers Announce Nationwide Strike on August 29th"
announcement from "California Labor Federation Spotlight" newsletter:
The fast food industry is booming. McDonalds and Burger King are part of a $200 billion industry. But most fast food workers don’t earn enough to afford basic needs like food, clothing, and rent, and many qualify for food stamps and other taxpayer-funded public assistance. That’s why fast food workers all over the nation are joining together to demand $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation.
On Thursday, August 29th, fast food workers are holding their first nationwide strike, and thousands will be walking off the job at hundreds of restaurants in dozens of cities around the country. You can show your support for the fast food workers by respecting signing on to their online petition at, tweeting your support with the hashtag #829strike, respecting their picket lines and joining in a local mobilization.

2013-09-03 "SEIU 1021 members stand with striking fast food workers"
from "1021 Newswire":
While McDonalds boasted of profits that reached $5 billion last year, fast food employees across the country continue to face hardships as they attempt to make ends meet with low wage jobs at establishments like McDonalds, KFC and other franchises across the country.
Last week SEIU 1021 members joined a coalition of California fast-food workers as part of a strike that included thousands of low-wage restaurant workers who were demanding better pay and the right to exercise their rights to form a union at their workplaces without fear and intimidation. The walkout came on the heels of strikes that took place in November in New York City and later spread to Detroit, Seattle and Chicago and continues to spread across the country.
Many workers talked about the unwillingness of the company to provide full time work and the irregularity of hours making it impossible to obtain any of the bare minimum benefits. Workers also expressed concern about the fear and intimidation faced when trying to form a union with other co-workers.
Since 2009, the federal minimum wage has remained stagnant at $7.25 an hour. If an individual works full time that would come out to approximately $15,000/year at 40 hours a week.
SEIU 1021 stands in solidarity with the right of fast food workers, and all workers to form a union to improve their conditions and to address the growing divide between corporations and their workers. As the struggle for justice continues, let’s join the efforts for justice with our fellow workers!

2013-08-30 "Thousands Strike Fast Food, Picketing and Occupying"
by Jenny Brown from "Labor Notes" []:
Thousands of fast food workers walked off their jobs in 58 U.S. cities yesterday, an indictment of an economy that’s producing little more than McJobs. Some picket lines turned into temporary occupations, and several stores closed. From a McDonald’s in Peoria, Illinois, to a Burger King in Durham, North Carolina, the one-day strikes hit businesses in dozens of new cities and towns. Organizers estimated a thousand restaurants were affected. It was a significant escalation: previous fast food strikes had hit eight cities. The strikes shut down some restaurants. In others only a few workers walked off the job, leaving managers scrambling to fill shifts. A Jimmy John’s sandwich shop in Seattle was staffed entirely by managers and had to suspend deliveries, while a Burger King in Houston closed for lunch when most of the shift joined the picket line. In Memphis, 50 workers and supporters picketed a McDonald’s as cars honked and pedestrians shouted their support. “McDonald’s makes $5 billion a year,” said Anthony Cathey, a striker from the store. “They treat us like slaves. We can't make ends meet.” Another striker, Latoya Jones, said, “I’ve been here almost a year; $7.25 is not a living wage. I’m a single mom with three kids. I’m living paycheck to paycheck.” In New York, workers picketing a midtown McDonald’s were joined by politicians and sympathetic clergy. “They’re not letting workers that have been there awhile get enough hours,” striking Bronx worker Bianka Ramirez told the crowd of 300. If corporate managers had to work in her store, she said, “before long I guarantee they’d be asking for $15 and a union.”
The crowd briefly occupied the restaurant, then marched downtown to picket another. Strikers from across the city converged at an afternoon rally at Union Square where hundreds of fast food workers were addressed by more politicians and union leaders. Not all large cities had large strikes. In Los Angeles, a crowd of 300 union members and supporters assembled outside a McDonald’s, but only a few were striking workers. They marched to a Subway and briefly occupied it; managers and employees hid in the back. In Seattle, by contrast, workers struck around 30 locations, including Jimmy John’s, Subway, and Specialty’s Café and Bakery. A Qdoba Mexican Grill was entirely shut down when a crowd occupied the store. A Subway was unable to stay open because of a large crowd out front. Striking Seattle workers started the morning fanning out to restaurants to try to convince more co-workers to walk out. They were often successful if they had already discussed the strike. Few to none walked out without earlier discussion, however.

Going Nowhere -
Striking workers are winning the PR war. They shone a spotlight on McDonald’s much-ridiculed budgeting tool—the second line of which assumed the worker they were “helping” with their budget had a second job. When confronted about its low wages, McDonald’s blames franchise owners. But when asked about the roughly 20 percent of stores it runs directly, company flacks acknowledge workers there also start at minimum wage. Fast food companies have also claimed stores provide a ladder to managerial jobs or franchise ownership—but workers say promises of advancement are so much smoke. John Valdez, who walked out of a McDonald’s in midtown Manhattan, said he has now worked for three McDonald’s locations over four years, and knows all the jobs. He worked his way up from $7.25 to $7.55 an hour—but when he changed stores, they bumped him back down to $7.25 again. “It’s not fair, that’s why everybody’s here today,” he said. And there’s hardly any room at the top of the ladder. Only 2.2 percent of jobs in fast food are professional or managerial, said a recent report by the National Employment Law Project, “Going Nowhere Fast.” []
Front-line occupations like cooks, cashiers, and delivery drivers make up 89.1 percent of fast food jobs, with a median hourly pay of $8.94. Their supervisors make $13.06 per hour, but only comprise 8.7 percent of fast food jobs. And franchise owners have to prove assets of three quarters of a million dollars in most cases, the report said—so working your way up to ownership, on minimum wage, doesn’t sound realistic. Burger King striker Tamara Green, in her 30s, said she’s close to finishing her college degree—but she knows, as good jobs are destroyed, a degree is not the ticket it once was. “I have college grads standing next to me and making a burger,” she told the New York crowd.

Union Backing -
The Service Employees have been backing the effort, starting with 40 organizers in New York, the first city to hold fast food strikes, last July []. The union at first kept a low profile, but in recent weeks, as interest spread nationally, union officials started taking credit for the effort. There are signs SEIU is putting substantial resources, with as many as 10 full-time organizers each in several cities, and they recently announced they’re hiring researchers for the campaign. In Memphis the union recruited fast food workers through a social media ad campaign, following up with a live organizer, which led to the first participation in fast food strikes there. The city is iconic for the sanitation workers’ strike that drew Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s support right before his assassination [’s-assassination-memphis-reignites-labor-struggle]. Labor history was alive and being created anew on Thursday. Some Memphis workers held signs reading “I Am a Man.” The strikers ended their march at the civil rights museum, at the site of the Lorraine Motel where King was killed. To get there, they marched up Beale Street, following the same route sanitation workers often marched in 1968.

The short strikes don’t seem to be aimed at stopping production and costing the companies money, although they certainly have done that in some stores. Instead, the main targets are high-profile brands and low minimum wage laws []. They do seem to have revived a discussion of low wages and high corporate profits, reminiscent of the talk spurred by Occupy Wall Street. The path forward is unclear. Squeezing more out of franchise owners makes little sense when McDonald’s, for example, rakes in much of its profit through fees and mandatory sales to franchisees. A possible model comes from farmworker organizing. Both the Farm Labor Organizing Committee and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers have conducted multi-year campaigns to eventually win three-party agreements among farmworkers, growers, and produce buyers. CIW, in particular, has extracted money for tomato pickers directly from fast food companies like Yum Brands, which owns Taco Bell []. They did it by public criticism and boycotts of the carefully-cultivated fast-food brand names, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway and Chipotle. SEIU seems more focused on the political arena. In a planning meeting for the strike in Seattle, the only thing on the calendar after the strike was the city’s mayoral election. In New York City, mayoral candidates Christine Quinn (endorsed by SEIU 32BJ) and Bill DeBlasio (endorsed by SEIU 1199) spoke at separate fast food rallies. Quinn said she would introduce city council legislation to force fast food companies to provide workers with fixed schedules and notice of changes at least a week in advance. Workers say they are unable to go to school, arrange childcare, or plan their lives because they don’t have set shifts. “Every week my schedule changes,” said Valdez. He is often sent home early, he said, or called when staffing is short. But Quinn’s record, blocking and then watering down New York City living wage legislation indicates that such election-time promises will dissipate quickly. Nationally, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry seemed to focus on building momentum for a higher federal minimum wage. She told The New York Times that the demand “is moving people to understand that $15 is increasingly reasonable.” President Barack Obama has proposed a federal minimum that would gradually increase to $9 an hour, but Congress has not moved on it. “$7.25 isn’t enough, I can promise you that,” said Shakira Campbell, a New York McDonald’s worker. “I need my money. Where is my money?”

East Bay Fast Food Workers Walk Out!
Thu, Aug 29, 4:00 PM
Event Location: Labor Temple, 8400 Enterprise Way, Oakland,  94621
Come out and support these brave  Fast Food workers who are choosing to take a stand & attend the action on Thursday August 29th @ 4:00PM at the AFL-CIO Labor Temple, 8400 Enterprise Way, Oakland, CA 94621.
Many Fast-food workers across the country barely make enough to make ends meet. Many fast food workers make as little as $8.00 an hour, a wage that falls far below the federal poverty line. Meanwhile, Goliath corporations like McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, and KFC have reaped in huge profits in the billions this year

National Strike!
Fast food and other low wage workers across the country are going on strike on August 29. We’ve had enough of struggling to get by on minimum wage or barely more, so we’re walking off our jobs to demand $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation.
Join the fight by sharing this video right now. And if you work in fast food, bring the strike to your city [].

About this campaign -
Fast-food workers are coming together all over the country to fight for $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation. We work for corporations that are making tremendous profits, but do not pay employees enough to support our families and to cover basic needs like food, health care, rent and transportation. Too many of us are forced to rely on public assistance to scrape by.
These are billion-dollar companies that can afford to pay their employees better. Low-wage jobs are the fastest growing jobs in the nation, and they need to pay more so that workers like us can make ends meet, and so that we can rebuild the middle class and get the economy working again.

What people are saying about this campaign -
“The fast-food workers who have been walking off their jobs illustrate a central fact of contemporary work life in America: As lower-wage occupations have proliferated in the past several years, Americans are increasingly unable to make a living at their jobs. They work harder and are paid less than workers in other advanced countries. And their wages have stagnated even as executive pay has soared.” — New York Times Editorial, August 7, 2013
“The nation would be better off if fast-food workers earned a livable wage” — Boston Globe Editorial, August 5, 2013
“The fast food struggle is a small part of a larger thing…it has to do with the right to collective bargaining; it has to do with offshoring jobs the way we have been…it has to do with investing in our nation’s infrastructure to put people back to work…it is a re-commitment to the American dream.” — Rep. Keith Ellison on Morning Joe on MSNBC, July 30, 2013

Strike Kit -
Not a fast food worker but want to help bring the strike to your town?
Download our campaign cards and let your local fast food employees know about the national strike.
Get your cards [].

If you work in a fast food or retail store anywhere in the country, the most effective thing you can do right now is make plans to take to the streets on August 29. Encourage your friends, family, and neighbors to do the same. The more of us who go on strike that day, the louder our message will be that it is not right for companies making billions in profits to pay their workers pennies.
Email us to let us know you’re in [] – or if you want to talk with a fellow fast food worker who has already gone out on strike. You can reach us at (347) 974-3944 too.
* Download 15 steps for $15 []
* Download Strike Letter []

How to Go on a One-Day Strike: 15 steps for $15 an hour and the right to form a union -
Before you strike for $15:
1. Talk to coworkers you trust and ask them to join you.
2. Set the time to meet outside the store on the day of the strike.
3. Call everyone you know to support you: friends, family, local social justice organizations, pastors, priests, and politicians and ask them to come to your strike line.
4. Ask at least one of your supporters to walk back into to work with you at your next regularly scheduled shift after the strike.

Day of the strike for $15:
5. Make signs that say why you are on strike.
6. Print out and deliver the “Strike” letter to your manager (everyone who is on strike should sign it).
7. Start your strike! Stand outside your store with your supporters and let people know you all are standing up for $15 an hour and the right to organize a union because low pay is not ok!
8. Call the local TV station and newspaper and let them know you are on strike at your store.
9. Call or text family and friends who aren’t there yet to come and support you.
10. Chant, march, sing and let everyone who is on strike explain why they are there.
11. Ask supporters to come with you when you and your coworkers return to work.
12. Post pictures of your strike on Facebook at and tweet them to @lowpayisnotok with the hashtag #829strike

After the strike for $15:
13. Meet up with your supporter who is walking with you to work.
14. Go back to work at your next regularly scheduled shift with your head held high.
15. Tell your coworkers how it felt to stand up for $15 an hour and the right to form union with thousands of other workers across the country! Sign them up at

2013-08-29 "Why I'm on Strike Today: I Can't Support Myself on $7.85 at Burger King; I know what it feels like to be afraid that your children will go to bed hungry, your heat will be turned off or you'll be evicted" by Willietta Dukes []:
Willietta Dukes works at a Burger King in Durham, North Carolina
I've worked at fast-food restaurants in North Carolina for the past 15 years. I've spent more hours at Church's Chicken, McDonald's and now Burger King than I can remember. I work hard – I never miss a shift and always arrive on time. But today, I'm going on strike.
I make $7.85 at Burger King as a guest ambassador and team leader, where I train new employees on restaurant regulations and perform the manager's duties in their absence. Before Burger King, I worked at Church's for 12 years, starting at $6.30 and ending at just a little more than $8 an hour.
I've never walked off a job before. I don't consider myself an activist, and I've never been involved with politics. I'm a mother with two sons, and like any mom knows, raising two teenage boys is tough. Raising them as a single mother, on less than $8 an hour, is nearly impossible, though.
My boys, Tramaine and Russell Jr are now 20 and 21 years old. When they were in middle and high school, I had to work two fast-food jobs to make ends meet. Most days, I would put them on the bus at 6:30am before working a 9 to 4 shift at one restaurant, then a 5-close shift at another. If I had a day off, I was at their schools, checking in with their teachers and making sure they were keeping up with their education. I wanted them, when they were grown-up, to not have to work two jobs.
My hours, like many of my coworkers, were cut this year, and I now work only 25 to 28 hours each week. I can't afford to pay my bills working part time and making $7.85, and last month, I lost my house. Now, I go back and forth between staying with Russell Jr and Tramaine. I never imagined my life would be like this at this point. I successfully raised two boys, and now I'm forced to live out of their spare bedrooms. That's why I'm on strike today.
About a month and a half ago, I saw a Facebook page for NC Raise UP, which encouraged fast-food workers in North Carolina to join with others around the country who are striking. Today, I am joining workers in 40 cities who are taking collective action for a $15 wage and the right to form a union without retaliation.
Most of the workers I've met on social media are just like me – mothers and fathers who wonder if they will ever get what they deserve, if they'll ever escape from poverty. We are walking off our jobs because we don't know how we are going to survive on these jobs. We're on strike because we can't afford not to strike.
Burger King says they can't pay employees like me higher wages because it would force them out of business. Yet last year it made $117m in profits and its CEO took home $6.47m. It would take me 634 years to earn that much.
I've worked in fast-food for 15 years, and I can't even afford my own rent payments. We just want fairness and to be able to provide for our families. No one who works every day should be forced to be homeless.
As a guest ambassador, my job is to keep customers happy, greeting them at the door, checking in with them at their tables and picking up their trash. I'm good at what I do. Customers have come in and have wanted to give me $25 gift certificates as a way of saying thank you. If only Burger King rewarded hard work in the same way.
I'm on strike today for the first time in my life, and surprisingly, I don't feel afraid. Like so many fast-food workers across this country, I know what it feels like to be truly afraid – afraid of having your children go to bed hungry, or having your heat turned off in February, or being evicted from your home. Today is not scary. Today is empowering.

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