Two updates, including the filing of Unfair Labor Practice charges yesterday against companies, appear below.
Hundreds of Milwaukee workers plan to walk off the job starting at 6 Central Time this morning, launching the nation’s fifth fast food workers’ strike in six weeks. Today’s work stoppage follows strikes in St. Louis and Detroit last week, and in New York and Chicago last month. In each case, workers are demanding a raise to $15 per hour, and the right to form a union without intimidation.
“I’m so amped up and ready,” Milwaukee McDonald’s employee Stephanie Sanders told The Nation last night. Sanders, a 33-year-old who recently returning to working at McDonald’s following a stretch in retail, said that she would be striking “basically to help my generation out, and the next generation to follow.” Along with low wages and the lack of job security, Sanders said she wanted to do something about punitive management: “Just because you have on a blue shirt doesn’t mean you’re better than me.”
As I’ve reported, these recent work stoppages share several common characteristics: Each is a one-day strike by fast food workers, backed by a coalition of unions and community groups, targeting major companies throughout the industry and mobilizing a minority of the workforce in hopes of building broader support. While different local organizations have been involved in each city’s actions, the Service Employees International Union has played a significant role in all of them.
The campaign expects today’s strikes to involve workers from fast food chains including McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell. Like Chicago’s, the Milwaukee strike involves retail as well as fast food: workers from companies including TJ Maxx, Dollar Tree and Footaction plan to strike. Both industries are increasingly prevalent in—and representative of—the US economy, and both are overwhelmingly non-union.
Jennifer Epps-Addison, the economic justice director for Citizen Action of Wisconsin, said that a victory for the Raise Up MKE campaign would have broad implications for Milwaukee: “We know that if we were to raise the wages of those workers, it would mean not only economic security for their families, but economic security for a city that’s been devastated by de-industrialization, devastated by a jobless rate for African-American men of over 55 percent.”
Reached for comment during last Friday’s strike in Detroit, a McDonald’s spokesperson sent a statement touting “competitive wages” “access to flexible schedules and quality, affordable benefits” and “training and professional development opportunities” for McDonald’s workers. “We value and respect all the employees who work at McDonald’s restaurants,” said the statement. The company did not respond to a follow-up inquiry regarding the strikers’ demands, or whether they could face punishment for walking off the job.