Shareholders, not employees, have reaped the rewards. McDonald’s, for example, spent $6 billion on share repurchases and dividends last year, the equivalent of $14,286 per restaurant worker employed by the company. At the same time, restaurant companies have formed an industrywide effort to freeze the minimum wage, whose purchasing power is 20 percent less than in 1968, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank that advocates for low- and middle-income workers.This is the backdrop against which workers like Johnson are getting involved with the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago and organizing—and striking—in New York City. Sarah Jaffe follows up with some of the workers who went on strike in New York on Nov. 29:
Pamela Flood, whom I met last week leading chants on the picket line outside that same Wendy's, told me that her boss at Burger King, who used to refer to her by her first name, is back to calling her Miss Flood.Another worker at the same Wendy's was told she'd be fired when she joined the strike, but got her job back under pressure from a rally that included City Councilman Jumaane Williams.
Truvon Shim took the stage with Flood at both the fast-food workers' rally on strike day, and Thursday's rally of low-wage workers from across the city. He came to tell his story of losing everything in his Far Rockaway home to Superstorm Sandy, but also had his own victory to share.
Shim had asked his boss at Wendy's for a few days to deal with the storm's aftermath, but when he called to be added back to the schedule, was told there were no available hours. However, this week, along with an organizer from New York Communities for Change (NYCC), the group that began the fast-food worker campaign, Shim met with his general manager and was promised he'd get his hours back.
Along with Walmart workers, car wash workers, port truck drivers, warehouse workers, and others across the country, these fast food workers are part of a resurgence of militant action by low-wage workers who have for years been getting hammered by the race to the bottom corporate economy. Their numbers are small compared with the number of low-wage workers in this country, but these worker-activists are risking having their hours cut or being fired, when they're struggling to make ends meet to begin with. Every time one of them speaks out or walks out, it's an act of immense courage. And it looks like a wave that's building.
(Continue reading below the fold.)
- Diarist jpmassar brought us The real war on Christmas: School cafeteria worker fired for feeding needy student. Only then, after public outcry, she was rehired.
- Josh Eidelson discusses recent organizing at Walmart as an example of minority unionism.
- A bright spot in Philadelphia: 2,500 security guards have joined a union and ratified their first contract. Under the new contract, wages will rise from current levels between $8 and $11 to between $10.45 and $13, and full-time security guards will have health care starting in 2014.
Nobody's getting rich or even solidly middle-class—$13 an hour is $27,040 for a year of full-time work—but it's enough to change people's lives.
"It means a lot to me," said Pamela Legg, 44, of West Philadelphia, a security guard at Temple University Hospital.The security guards work at major Philadelphia institutions like Temple and the convention center, but are employed by four major national and international security contractors.
"It means I'm going to get a raise. I'm going to have medical," she said.
- Walmart workers will rally in 10 countries tomorrow. The biggest U.S. protest will be in Miami.
- Workers at Sunny Day car wash in the Bronx voted to unionize, though some of the votes are in contention before the National Labor Relations Board. If the vote holds up, that's the fifth New York City car wash to unionize.
- Striking nursing home workers in Connecticut got a federal injunction against their employer, HealthBridge. According to the NLRB:
A federal judge has ordered a Connecticut nursing home chain to offer reinstatement to approximately 600-700 workers, to rescind changes made to employee wages and benefits, and to bargain in good faith with the union that has long represented its employees. [...[HealthBridge asked for a stay of the injunction, but the judge turned them down.
The petition seeking the injunction alleged that after 19 months of bargaining, in June 2012, the company unilaterally implemented contract proposals affecting wages, hours, benefit eligibility, and retirement and health benefits without first bargaining to a good faith impasse. Employees went on an unfair labor practice strike in protest. In mid-July, the employees through their union offered to return to work under the terms of the contract that existed prior to the unilateral implementation, but the employer refused to bring them back.
In his order, Judge Chatigny found reasonable cause to believe the employer has refused to bargain in good faith, and that there was a “pressing need to restore the status quo” that existed before the unilateral changes were made. Under the order, Healthbridge must make the offers of reinstatement by Dec. 17. The injunction will remain in effect while the NLRB resolves the underlying Healthbridge cases.
- Federal workers are unhappy, or at least, their happiness dropped more than in any year since 2003 when a survey started keeping track. Which, surprise! If you freeze people's pay for years and have powerful people on television every day suggesting firing them en masse, and cut the budgets to where they can't always effectively do their jobs, they aren't that happy. The survey also identifies best and worst places to work in government.
- Contracts for cleaners, bathroom attendants, and other service workers in 32 Broadway theaters are expiring and the workers, who are members of SEIU 32BJ, have voted to authorize a strike if there's no deal by Dec. 30.
- UNITE HERE and Hyatt workers are urging the hotel chain to put a hotel worker on its board of directors:
Holding signs and speaking before large crowds, housekeepers say “someone like me” would make Hyatt a better company, for workers and shareholders alike. Democratic corporate governance structures that include workers have been successful in European countries for decades.
“We all have a shared stake in Hyatt’s success, but no one who cleans rooms like me has a real say at Hyatt,” says Cathy Youngblood, a housekeeper at the Hyatt Andaz in West Hollywood. “By choosing someone like me to be on the board, Hyatt could be a model for corporate America at a time when so many American workers feel left behind.”
Currently, Hyatt has twelve directors on its board. The new resolution proposes that a 13th board member be added from the ranks of Hyatt’s staff.
- Walmart has been trying to move into India, but has hit a snag as the Indian government says it will be investigating Walmart lobbying.
- Insurance liability in NFL concussion suits may have costly consequences
- Security workers at JFK airport may be getting ready to strike over low pay, broken equipment, inadequate training, and more. All the things you want in airport security!