News & Commentary

December 4, 2014

Today, thousands of fast food workers in roughly 190 cities nationwide are walking off the job demanding an industry-wide base wage of $15 per hour and the right to form a union. According to Al Jazeera, today’s action may be the largest work stoppage in the history of the industry if organizer estimates prove to be accurate.

Today’s strike is not limited to fast food, as Forbes reports that home care workers and airport workers, including baggage handlers, skycaps, wheelchair attendants and aircraft cleaners. Airport worker strikes will occur at airports in New York, New Jersey, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston, Minneapolis, Oakland, Fort Lauderdale, Seattle and Atlanta. Additionally, retail workers at convenience and dollar stores have signed on to today’s protests in 22 cities, according to the Washington Post.

Politico reports that approximately 500 low-wage federal contract workers in D.C. will also be joining today’s protests. Good Jobs Nation is organizing a protest at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, where food workers at corporate-owned – non-franchised – McDonald’s restaurants at the Air and Space Museum and the Pentagon, as well as workers from Union Station, the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, and the National Zoo demand $15 an hour, above the President’s recent executive order mandating $10.10 per hour for federal contractors.

Conservative groups such as the Chamber of Commerce and Manhattan Institute for Policy Research have denounced the protests as publicity stunts during a press call on Tuesday, according to The Hill. Glenn Spencer, vice president of the Chamber of Commerce Workforce Freedom Initiative, claimed that the vast majority of protesters are SEIU members and SEIU allies, not employees of the fast food chains themselves. This is on top of McDonald’s previous statement arguing that “[t]hese are not ‘strikes,’ but are organized rallies for which demonstrators are transported to various locations, and are often paid for their participation.” However, Al Jazeera reports that the fast-food campaign has a strike fund for workers who can’t afford to take a day off, but that the campaign has denied otherwise paying anyone to attend.

And while workers demand higher wages today, The New York Times reports that those wages are increasingly at risk in two of the nation’s largest states. According to a new study released by the Department of Labor, between 3.5 and 6.5 percent of wage and salary workers in California and New York receive less than the minimum wage. More than 300,000 workers in each state suffered minimum-wage violations each month, which cost workers between $20 million to $29 million in lost income per week – or 38 percent of the income of the victimized workers in New York and 49 percent of the income of victimized workers in California. According to the labor department, if the national violation rate were presumed to be half of that in California and New York, that would still mean that more than two million workers across the nation were paid less than the federal or state minimum wage.

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