A movement of one-day strikes carried out across the country by low-wage fast-food workers is gaining steam, with strikers this week in St. Louis, Kansas City, Detroit and Flint adding their strength to previous walkouts in New York and Chicago. Today: Milwaukee.
The strategists know they want to achieve a $15 wage, but they seem to be ad-libbing on ways to get there. Perhaps they will seek to unionize workers at dozens of restaurants, although some labor leaders scoff at that idea because the turnover rate among fast-food employees is about 75 percent a year. Or the strategists and strikers might press city councils to enact a special “living wage” for fast-food restaurants. Or perhaps by continually disrupting the fast-food marketplace from counter to counter across the country, they can get McDonald’s, KFC and others to raise wages to end the ruckus. The protests’ organizers acknowledge that yet another goal is to push Congress to raise the federal minimum wage and pressure state legislatures to raise the state minimums.
“These companies aren’t magically going to make our lives better,” said Terrance Wise, who earns $9.30 an hour after working for eight years at a Burger King in Kansas City, plus $7.40 an hour at his second job at Pizza Hut. “We can sit back and stay silent and continue to live in poverty or, on the other hand, we can step out and say something and let it be known that we need help.”
The looseness and open-endedness of the protests could be a weakness, but in this situation it seems more like a strength: It allows organizers to walk away and describe as a "win" many different outcomes, and its broad base and low commitment requirements serve as a good way to engage, educate and organize low-wage workers in labor movements.
The restaurants, and the corporate conglomerates that own them, have so far for their part refused to budge. Community organizers, clergy, and workers from Wendy’s, Burger King, McDonald’s, and elsewhere will gather in Milwaukee and Chicago today—joined by workers walking off the job at Subway and elsewhere—to demand their right to organize.
[image via AP]