The Global Fast Food Workers Strike

  • Wausau Strike

As many are aware, the global fast food workers strike took place this past May 15th. There were participants all over America. Citizens of all ages and backgrounds took part, and these were some of the comments from the courageous individuals who marched in Wausau:

“What 15 & a union means to me: Protection from wage theft and income inequality.

As a worker, I’ve seen wage theft happen first hand. Whether it’s not getting paid during training, taking out the trash on breaks, or even counting registers off of the clock, these are all forms of wage theft and it happens every day. I feel that with the profits these companies make, they can afford the $15 dollar raise. I feel as if a lot of people against this movement aren’t taking into consideration the price of the things we need in order to just survive, and like I have stated before, if the cost of living continues to go up every year, why shouldn’t we be paid more?

We are asking to raise the wages so we can afford to live without government assistance. I myself work two jobs, and am seeking a third just to survive! CEO’s do not realize how much damage they’ve created by not sharing the wealth and giving us a livable wage.

A lot of people suggest and almost demand we seek a higher education. If we can barely afford rent, food, or transportation to and from our jobs, how can we save up to afford a higher education? Most of us have the drive to do so, but we simply do not have the means, and this is what many fail to understand. Aside from money, time is also a necessity when it comes to seeking higher education.

Fast-food is not just food service. It’s customer service, sales, cleaning (being exposed to harsh chemicals), keeping the store presentable, cooking while dealing with uncomfortable temperatures (extremely hot oils and heating lamps), accuracy with counting money, and being treated poorly by managers and customers, all while being expected to smile.”  – Brandi Barreto

“My Experience: I currently work part time at a nationally franchised food service place. Although I would like to work full-time, I am not allowed to work more than 28 hours a week. Despite being part time, I am still given the huge responsibility of opening the store, making deposits, and completing end-of-day paperwork (that’s if I close). Along with that, I’m also normally scheduled by myself to do everything at the store.

I put all of my energy into my job as well as my time. I often get called in last minute. I change my personal schedule to be there when I can. Compensation for what I do on a daily basis for this company isn’t fair for all the hard work I do. That is the reason I support the right to unionize for fast food and retail workers.

The goal for $15 and a union may sound unreasonable to some, but the big companies can afford it.  Right now, they count on taxpayers to pay for the difference in terms of support like BadgerCare, food stamps, and other forms of welfare, while they are getting huge tax cuts. If wages were increased to $15, I think many working people would no longer depend on welfare.

The other reason I support $15 and a union is to improve circumstances for future generations. If we don’t stand up for our rights now, who will stand up for our kids?”  – Amber Clay

“Many corporations make billions of dollars a year, but don’t pay their workers enough to earn a living. Many workers have to work two or three jobs just to get by. Before unions, manufacturing jobs were dangerous with meager wagers. Workers forming together and demanding unions are the reason that manufacturing jobs are good, family-supporting jobs. Workers by themselves are never going to get a living wage without the support of a union.

The focus of the strikes to raise wages to $15 is directed towards corporations that we know can afford it. If giant corporations in the fast food and retail world would pay their workers a living wage, people relying on tax-funded programs like SNAP, Medicare, and welfare would finally be able to support themselves and their families without government assistance. If workers made a living wage, they would be able to spend more money at businesses and would contribute to the economy in a way that they cannot right now.

I myself make a few bucks more than minimum wage, but still struggle to make ends meet. To be able to survive I must live with other people to share the cost of housing, but paying my bills is a monthly struggle.  With most of my paycheck going to bills (like student loans) I can’t afford to save for the future.

I support unions for many reasons. In my experience working in low wage jobs, management does not do anything when workers complain about sexual harassment, and those who do complain are reprimanded. Also, I have seen workers who have been at a place for 10+ years get harassed and demoted from manager positions so companies can cut costs. A union can protect workers like that.”  – Josh Andreske

 Not surprisingly, on May 14th, corporately funded think tanks like the Madison, WI based McIver Institute released statements in Gannett owned newspapers around the state, claiming that raising the minimum wage would have dire consequences. Citing misrepresented statistics, Brett Healy, the president of McIver, essentially said that nothing can be done to improve the lives of working Americans. People must accept that they and their children will live in poverty.

Of course Healy also warned against worker unions and greedy union bosses. But he failed to mention corporate unions. The millionaire/billionaire bosses of the US Chamber of Commerce are masters at driving wages down. Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and its wealthy union bosses undermine worker protections and benefits. Multimillionaire union bosses of the American Association of Bankers, cost workers their homes, their jobs, and hundreds of billions of dollars to pay for financial gimmicks and the economic collapse. The corporately funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and its billionaire union bosses, David and Charles Koch, wrote most of the anti-worker/ anti-public legislation enacted in Wisconsin over the past three years.

But the working citizens who went on strike in Wausau and elsewhere have history on their side, The shared prosperity of the 1950’s – 1970’s, when more American workers belonged to unions than at any other point in history, gave us a thriving middle class, low unemployment, and the healthiest economy the world has ever known.

If the 1968 minimum wage of $1.60 were inflation adjusted, it would be $10.74 today. But this does not tell the real story. Adjusted for actual gains in productivity, the most conservative estimates would place today’s minimum wage at $16.54 – more than 45 percent of all working Americans currently earn.

We now have historic levels of inequality and concentrated wealth in America. Multimillionaires and billionaires are opposing any efforts of working people to improve their lives. There has never been a more critical time for workers to unite.