A Note on Last Week's Fast Food Strike, Women of Color and The Future

Something to consider while lamenting your three-day respite from labor: last week's fast food strike, which you should care about if you are a woman and/or a human being.

On August 29th, fast food employees went on strike in around a thousand stores in over 50 cities; it was the industry's largest strike ever. They're asking for $15 an hour — living wages are neat — and the right to unionize without fear of retaliation.

MSNBC's Ned Resnikoff points out that "the fast food movement could lead to transformative change on a similarly grand scale":

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If the appeal for higher pay were granted, it would effectively wipe out a substantial chunk of what is now called the low-wage economy. Fast food would likely shed some jobs, but it would also become an industry which pays a living wage to all of its employees, potentially driving up wages across the whole economy in the process. Many current union members, while not the primary beneficiaries, would likely feel the wage hike’s positive effects when bargaining for a salary increase.

Which is exactly why corporations like McDonald's (its CEO made $13.8 million in 2012) and Burger King (its CEO only made a paltry $6.5 million, sob) hope it fails.

Some stats on the average fast food worker: s/he makes $10,000 to $18,000 a year. Two-thirds are women, and a quarter are raising children. Women of color who make minimum wage in the service industry are paid 60 percent less than their male colleagues, studies show.

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One-day strikes are great for publicity, but what's next? Over at Salon, Josh Eidelson gives us an idea:

A source who took part in a private SEIU meeting with allies last week in Las Vegas said that the union presented two tracks under serious consideration for transforming the industry. First, escalating pressure on fast food corporations – McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s, in particular – with the goal of reaching a joint agreement under which the corporations would cover the costs of improved labor standards in their stores. And second, a legislative push for local living wage laws requiring improved compensation for fast food workers. Because most cities lack the legal authority to mandate higher wages for jobs that aren’t publicly subsidized, that push would involve statewide ballot measures in 2014 to allow cities to hike private sector workers’ wages.

[Slate, Guardian, The Daily Beast, MSNBC]