Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Fast food revolt: Striking for fair wages, striking for opportunity, striking for justice

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Salon, with a piece worth reading in its entirety to get a sense of the gross injustice facing workers at fast food establishments:

[Yesterday] morning [marked] the start of what will likely be the largest fast food worker mobilization in U.S. history, with a New York City walkout today kicking off strikes in seven cities over four days. These work stoppages by non-union workers are the latest escalation in an embattled labor movement's unprecedented challenge to the overwhelmingly non-union industry, whose ranks are growing and whose conditions are spreading elsewhere in the U.S. economy.

"I know you're tired of suffering," KFC employee Naquasia LeGrand told fellow workers gathered with clergy and politicians at a rally last Wednesday announcing that New York City worker-activists had voted to strike this week. "I don't want to see the next generation suffering and suffering. I don't want my kids suffering. I want to make sure they have a better future than I do." Looking out on a crowd of about 150 at the entrance to Brooklyn's Prospect Park, LeGrand added, "So if I want that to happen, I need you guys to stand with me just as long as I'm standing with you."

As Salon first reported, the fast food effort went public last November, with a strike by about 200 employees of various chains in New York City. Over the past four months, that walkout has been followed by similar work stoppages in five other cities, and a second New York City strike roughly twice as large. Each of those strikes has been backed by the Service Employees International Union and local allies, and each has shared the same demands: a raise to $15 per hour, and the chance to form a union without intimidation by management.

I wish them well. I really do. It is a society that is rotten to the core that treats its workers this way.


In related news:

Four out of five Americans will live near poverty, without work, or relying on welfare at least once during their lives, according to a new survey from the Associated Press.

The survey shows signs of a deteriorating economy, growing economic inequality, and a disappearing American dream, just as the president looks to re-energize his economic agenda and champion the middle class.

"This growing inequality is not just morally wrong, it's bad economics," President Obama said last week in Galesburg, Illinois. "When the rungs on the ladder of opportunity grow farther and farther apart, it undermines the very essence of America -- that idea that if you work hard you can make it here."

America's wealth distribution looks like a lopsided ladder: The bottom 40% of the population owns just 0.3% of the nation’s wealth, while the top 20% has 84% of the nation’s wealth, according to a 2010 study on wealth distribution and balance.

According the latest Census, 46.2 million Americans -- 15% of the country -- are poor. But the Associated Press/GFK survey notes that Census figures are a snapshot -- they don’t account for those who shift in and out of near-poverty, welfare reliance, or unemployment. When those numbers are accounted for, the number of Americans who face such hardships surges to 79%.

Land of opportunity? The greatest country in the history of the world? Yeah, sure. Whatever.

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