I didn’t see it on TV or read about it in the news, but it might be the most historic event that occurred in America recently.
No, I don’t mean the march on Washington and the nationwide protests over police atrocities and racial profiling. I don’t mean the horrific revelations of CIA torture. I don’t even mean the audacious give-away to Wall Street that was pushed through in that trillion-dollar spending bill.
The media gave those lots of coverage.
I’m talking about the national fast food workers strike.
I got an email today informing me that in some 200 cities across the country, thousands of workers walked out of McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Taco Bell and so on last Thursday. It was the largest fast food strike in history, according to the email.
The fast food workers were joined by underpaid, unrepresented workers in home care, airports, convenience stores and other low-wage segments of society.
They want to be paid $15 an hour. And they want to be able to join a union without fear of retaliation. Does that seem like too much to ask?
Strikes in the fast food industry have been erupting in various cities for the past couple of years, but they don’t seem to be getting the attention they deserve. Perhaps the nationwide walkout will send a message to America’s employers that their employees are mad as hell, and aren’t going to take it any more.
While stocks soar, businesses rake in record profits and CEO salaries climb into the megamillions, pay for the folks doing the actual work has flat lined.
And the billionaires have succeeded in capturing the political system, leaving little opportunity to change the situation from the top.
But, as politicians endlessly reiterate and don’t really seem to believe, society changes most effectively from the bottom. And the fast food strikes look to me like that kind of change.
These are not random protests by an unorganized rabble. The movement is backed by the Service Employees International Union, which is among the few labor organizations with any clout left in America. It was the SEIU that emailed me about the strike.
While the November midterm results rule out any chance of President Obama getting the national minimum wage ($7.25 an hour) raised, strikes by underpaid workers could give wages a boost across the board. You know how it works. When the lowest-paid get more money, the rest of the work force also benefits.
These are restless times in America.
With politics failing them, the abandoned members of America’s underclass are taking matters into their own hands.
For America’s sake, I wish them success.