Fast-Food Workers Plan Wave Of Strikes For 2016 Primaries
by: Giovanna Vitale and Jack Temple Posted on: January 20, 2016
Editor’s Note: The first strike took place in Charleston, SC on Sunday, January 17, 2016—to coincide with the Democratic debate. Read the Dirt will be following the development of the 15 Now movement and its many tactics, especially when it fights for the right of democratic majorities to raise the minimum wage. As it stands today, countless local governments across the nation have no such power, including New York City, Portland, OR and the many others that live under state minimum wage preemption. See here for a peek into Read the Dirt’s coverage of minimum wage preemption and other forms of preemption impacting the lives of working families. This piece originally appeared on PopularResistance.org. Visit their website and support their work.
Fast-food workers announced Friday that an unprecedented wave of strikes and actions calling for $15 and union rights will hit this primary season to hammer home to candidates that the nearly 64 million Americans paid less than $15 an hour are a voting bloc that cannot be ignored.
The program kicked off Sunday, January 17, 2016 when fast-food workers struck in Charleston, S.C. and nearby cities, with thousands of fast-food, home care, child care and other underpaid workers converging on the Democratic debate to challenge candidates to “come get our vote.” Workers are planning additional actions for the primary season—targeted at both Democrats and Republicans—that will include more strikes coinciding with presidential primary debates.
Workers will also continue to collect signatures on their Fight for $15 Voter Agenda, a five-point platform that launched late last year and calls for $15 and union rights, affordable child care, quality long-term care, racial justice and immigration reform—issues identified by underpaid workers as key factors in whether they will go to the polls for a candidate.
“Workers need a raise and we need it now,” said Betsy Smalls, a 57-year-old from North Charleston who works at McDonald’s and plans to vote for the first time in her life in November. “Whether it’s McDonald’s and other large companies raising pay or politicians using their power to lift wages, we need higher pay any way we can get it. And we will stand with any politician in any political party who gets behind our call for $15 an hour and the right to a union.”
The debate, cohosted by the Congressional Black Caucus, comes on the eve of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Dr. King was killed in Memphis, where he went to support sanitation workers striking for their basic human right to earn a decent living in exchange for full-time work. African Americans have the highest poverty rate—27.4 percent—among racial and ethnic groups in America.
“Martin Luther King Jr. united economic and racial justice in our public consciousness, but too often our elected representatives ignore how these issues are intertwined,” said Ann Washington, a Charleston-area home care worker. “Home care workers who allow older Americans and people with disabilities to live with dignity and independence in their communities are among the lowest-paid people in the country. I’m casting my vote in 2016 for politicians who stand with us and stand up for $15, union rights and an end to the long-term care crisis that’s hurting communities and families in every state.”
The decision to launch an aggressive primary effort comes two months after fast-food workers made headlines with a vow during a nationwide strike to use the power of their fast-growing movement to elect candidates in 2016 who support $15 an hour and union rights. As a result of the strike in 270 cities and an evening protest outside the GOP debate in Milwaukee, the first question directed at candidates that night asked them to respond to the demands of fast-food workers seeking $15 and union rights.
As the Fight for $15 builds a political front ahead of the 2016 election, the New York Times and USA Today have both warned candidates who ignore the growing movement that they do so “at their own peril.” Meanwhile, the Associated Press said underpaid workers are flexing, “increasingly potent political muscle,” and BuzzFeed has said they “could make up a powerful new voting bloc.”
A recent poll of workers paid less than $15 an hour commissioned by the National Employment Law Project showed that 69% of unregistered voters would register to vote if there was a candidate who supported $15 and a union; and that 65% of registered voters paid less than $15 would be more likely to vote if there was a candidate who supported $15 an hour and a union. That’s 48 million potential voters paid less than $15 who could turn out if there were candidates who backed higher pay and union rights.
The Fight for $15 has built a growing awareness that $15 is the minimum wage level American workers in every part of the country need to survive and pay for the necessities to support their families. In September, 2015 200,000 fast-food workers in New York won a pay raise to $15 an hour following a recommendation from a wage board appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The governor is now pushing to make New York the first state in the nation with a $15 minimum wage. Cities including Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles have raised their minimum wage to $15 an hour. And home care workers in Massachusetts and Oregon won $15 statewide minimum wages earlier this year. Companies including Facebook, Aetna, Amalgamated Bank, and Nationwide Insurance have raised pay to $15 an hour or higher this year, while workers demand that fast-food companies like McDonald’s do the same.
All of the major Democratic presidential candidates support the Fight for $15, and the Democratic National Committee voted in August to make a $15 minimum wage an official part of its 2016 platform. On November 10, leading Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders tweeted their support for the strikers, while Sanders joined a strike line of federally-contracted workers in Washington, DC. In June, Clinton told fast-food workers at a national convention in Detroit, “I want to be your champion,” and said that “what you’re doing to build the Fight for 15 movement is so important.” In recent months, Clinton has held round-table meetings with home care and child care workers who are fighting for $15.
Amy Reece, a child care worker from Charleston who hasn’t seen a wage increase in ten years, said: “Our families are trapped in a vicious cycle of going to work just to pay for child care, which is what makes it possible for moms and dads to get to their jobs. I’ve been a child care provider for more than 10 years and never really thought politics was for me. But the Fight for $15 is forcing real change across our country, and I’m one of the nearly 64 million Americans who make less than $15 and cannot be ignored anymore. Candidates, come get my vote!”
With support for $15 high among Democratic candidates, strikes at the Democratic debates will focus not only on higher pay, but the workers twin demand of union rights. Workers say they shouldn’t have to rely on sporadic and incremental raises dependent on the good will of politicians. They are calling for an ongoing vehicle for making sure their wages rise with profitability and will call on all the candidates to discuss their plans to help make sure workers are able to join organizations that ensure their wages rise with profitability, productivity and economic growth.
Seventy-two percent of workers in the U.S. who are paid less than $15 an hour approve of labor unions, according to the NELP poll. The survey found that 72% believe unions can make a real difference in whether or not workers like themselves get raises, and that 66% say they would have a better chance of making $15 an hour and being able to support their families if they could join a union. A recent Gallup Organization poll found a sharp rise in the past year—to 58 percent—in approval of labor unions among all Americans.
Responding to findings showing that union membership increases social mobility, former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers in August called for greater collective bargaining to rebuild the middle class, writing in the Washington Post that, “strengthening collective worker voice has to be an important component of any realistic American inclusive growth agenda.”
Forty-six percent of workers in America are paid less than $15, including 48% of women, 54% of African Americans, and 60% of Latinos.
Leave a Reply
Articles On PRESS
PRESS: Republished press from our community wires.
- Jun 13 The Fight For Local Democracy in New York City
- May 25 Crown Heights Tenant Union: Building Power One Building at a Time in NYC
- May 25 Activists Occupy Shipping Container to Halt AIM Pipeline Construction in Upstate NY
- May 25 Barrington, NH votes 795 to 759 to Adopt Community Bill of Rights to Protect Waterways
- May 25 Revoking The Consent to be Governed
- Apr 25 Announcement of Nationally Coordinated Prisoner Workstoppage for Sept 9, 2016
- Apr 19 The Spirit of Occupy Lives on in France’s Emerging Direct Democracy Movement
- Apr 19 How Sanders Could Lay the Foundation for a Third US Political Party
- Apr 10 Some Possible Ideas for Going Forward
- Apr 7 Reclaiming Black Land in Grafton, New York
- Apr 7 Meet the Lead Organizer Behind the Upcoming Mass Sit-Ins to get Money out of Politics
- Mar 28 Dismantling Corporate Control Isn’t a Spectator Sport: An Interview With Thomas Linzey
- Mar 16 Preempting Trump: Barnstead, NH Adopts First-In-Nation Law Protecting Against Religious Persecution
- Mar 4 This New Era Of Unrest
- Mar 1 Washington State Supreme Court Guts Local Ballot Initiative Process
- Feb 9 Debating A ‘New’ Pan-European Anti-Austerity Movement
- Feb 9 How New York Stopped A Liquefied Natural Gas Project In Its Tracks
- Jan 28 Food, Land, and Freedom
- Jan 27 One Oregon Tribe’s Fight for Federal Recognition
- Jan 20 Worker, Civil and Environmental Rights as Legal Ends: Defying Commerce’s Logic
- Jan 20 Fast-Food Workers Plan Wave Of Strikes For 2016 Primaries
- Jan 18 Greece’s Varoufakis to Launch Pan-European Progressive Movement
- Jan 6 California’s Largest Tribe Passes First-In-Nation Enforceable Ban On GM-Salmon and GMOs
- Dec 29 The Leap Manifesto
- Dec 29 “People’s Injunction” Launched to Block Canadian Pipelines
- Dec 29 How Black Lives Matter Came Back Stronger After White Supremacist Attacks
- Dec 29 Can Local Law Enforcement Be Democratized By A People’s Movement?
- Dec 9 Preempting Democracy: What’s Not Being Voted on This November Is Sinister
- Dec 9 A Bill of Rights That Puts Workers Above Corporations
- Dec 9 Government and Gas Industry Team Up Against Local Fracking Ban Initiatives in Ohio
- Dec 9 Fighting Fossils, Letting Go of Regulatory Law
- Aug 26 In Colorado, A Revolutionary New Coalition Stands for Community Rights
- Aug 26 Climate Crisis Pits Local Governments Against 19th-Century Legal Doctrine
- Aug 26 Hundreds of Communities Are Building Legal Blockades to Fight Big Carbon
- Jul 21 Will Labor Go Local?
- Jul 20 Challenging Bedrock Law: “Dillon’s Rule” in Detroit and Beyond
- Jul 19 Defining a Federalist Approach to Immigration Reform
- Jul 18 Why Are Fracking Hopefuls Suing a County in New Mexico?
- Dec 8 Finally, The Court Case We’ve All Been Waiting For
- Nov 8 Ohio and Colorado Voters Adopt Community Bills of Rights
- Nov 8 Community Rights Organizer Sets Sights on Fracking in Southern Illinois
- Nov 8 Critical Issues Deserve a Higher Standard
- Nov 7 Indigenous Peoples Experience Of Climate Change And Efforts To Adapt (Video)
- Oct 8 Naomi Klein Addresses New ‘Mega Union’
- Oct 8 Disco may be the only way to stop Monsanto (Video)
- Oct 8 (Ohio) Frack-Backers Launch Preemptive Strikes against Democracy Attempt to Block Community Bills of Rights from Voters
- Oct 8 The California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Speaks to the Need for Wise Immigration Reform
- Oct 8 Support Local Food Rights Will Not Be Deterred by Legislature’s Blow to Democracy
- Oct 8 Economic Sovereignty At Stake
- Oct 8 Sangerville, Maine Adopts Community Bill Of Rights Ordinance to Reject Transportation and Distribution Corridors
- Oct 8 Sacred Headwaters
- Oct 8 Oregon Communities Launch Statewide Network for Community Rights
- Sep 8 Bowling Green, OH Group Submits Bill of Rights Petition
- Sep 8 Judgment Day
- Sep 8 Judge Blocks Envision, SMAC Initiatives from Appearing on Ballot
- Sep 8 Why a Rights Based Ordinance In Nottingham, NH?
- Aug 8 What is the Local Food System Ordinance of Lane County?
- Aug 8 Lane County Initiative to Protect Local Farming Encounters Hurdle; Campaign Still Targeting May 2014 Election
- Aug 8 Benin: Local Knowledge And Adaptation To Climate Change In Ouémé Valley, Benin
- Aug 8 Local Food System Ordinance of Lane County, Oregon
- Jul 8 Envision Spokane Statement to Legal Action to Block the Community Bill of Rights from the Ballot
- Jul 8 Why does the Spokane City Council continue to ignore and distort the substance of the Spokane Community Bill of Rights?
- Jul 8 History of Efforts to Keep the Spokane Community Bill of Rights Initiative off the Ballot
- Jul 8 East Boulder County United Launches Campaign for the Lafayette Community Rights Act to Prohibit New Oil and Gas Extraction
- Jul 8 Benton County Community Group Files Petition for the Right to a Local, Sustainable Food System
- Jul 8 Rivers and Natural Ecosystems as Rights Bearing Subjects
- Jun 8 Caring for Home through Nature’s Rights
- Jun 8 From Field to Table: Rights for Workers in the Food Supply Chain
- Jun 8 Will Ohio Be Fracking’s Radioactive Dumping Ground?
- May 7 First County in U.S. Bans Fracking and all Hydrocarbon Extraction – Mora County, NM
- May 7 Self-Replication at Stake in Monsanto Patented Seed Case
- May 7 Guatemala: Mayan K’iché Environmental Sustainability As A Way Of Life
- May 7 Small Farms Fight Back: Food And Community Self-Governance
- May 7 State College Borough Gov Denies Pipeline Permit: Fight Isn’t Over
- May 7 Muzzling Scientists is an Assault on Democracy
- Apr 8 An Addition to the Climate Movement-Civil Disobedience Toolkit
- Apr 2 Thornton, New Hampshire Rejects Community Bill of Rights To Ban Land Acquisition for Unsustainable Energy Systems
- Apr 2 Grafton, New Hampshire Adopts Community Bill of Rights That Bans Land Acquisition for Unsustainable Energy Systems
- Apr 2 Highland Township Adopts Community Bill of Rights That Bans Toxic Injection Wells
- Apr 2 PSU Pipeline Violates Community Bill of Rights
- Jun 26 The United States Conference of Mayors Resolves that Corporations are not Natural Persons etc.
- Apr 30 Information and Documents concerning Oregon LNG
- Mar 9 1st Annual Read the Dirt Writing Competition!
- Feb 24 Oil Sands Pipelines, here?
- Feb 23 PRESS: Genetically Engineered Animals?
- Feb 23 PRESS: The 9th Annual Skagit Human Rights Festival March 2012
- Jan 27 Bellingham Rights-Based Ordinance Proposed to Stop Coal Trains
- Jan 26 PRESS: Occupy Seattle Joins in Solidarity with United Farm Workers
- Jan 20 Planning For a Future (Original)
- Jan 8 PRESS: Associated Students of Western Washington University Adopt Resolution Opposing Cherry Point Coal Terminal