Seattle becomes the sevenths city where low-wage fast food workers are walking out for better working conditions. Like recent fast food strikers in New York, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Detroit, the Seattle strikers are holding a one-day walkout to demand a raise to $15 per hour and the right to form a union without intimidation. Like those cities’ strikes, Seattle’s is supported by a coalition of labor and community groups; in each case, the Service Employees International Union has been involved in supporting the organizing efforts. The Seattle campaign, Good Jobs Seattle, is backed by groups including Working Washington, the Washington Community Action Network, and OneAmerica.
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Hundreds of Milwaukee workers plan to walk off the job starting at 6 AM 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 toldThe Nation last night.
Organizers estimate that as many as 400 workers at more than 60 fast food restaurants in the Detroit metro area walked off the job on Friday, in what may be the largest fast food strike in American history. Leaders in the workers rights campaign said the strike has shut down multiple restaurants entirely, including multiple McDonald’s outlets, a Long John Silver’s, a Burger King, two Popeye’s restaurants, and a KFC. At one McDonald’s, management attempted to avert a shutdown by bringing in replacement workers—but those replacement workers then promptly joined the strike.
Hundreds of Detroit fast food workers plan to walk off the job beginning at 6 AM today, making the motor city the fourth in five weeks to see such strikes. Organizers expect participants from at least 60 stores, including McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Subway, Little Caesar’s, and Popeye’s locations. Like this week’s strike in St. Louis, and last month’s inNew York and Chicago, today’s work stoppage is backed by a local coalition including the Service Employees International Union, and the participants are demanding a raise to $15 an hour and the chance to form a union without intimidation. Organizers say that over a hundred workers joined the St. Louis strike between Wednesday andThursday. That included a group of Jimmy John’s workers who alleged that management humiliated them by requiring them to hold up signs in public with messages including “I made 3 wrong sandwiches today” and “I was more than 13 seconds in the drive thru.”
Fast food is becoming an ever-larger and more representative sector of the U.S. economy. “We should think of these jobs as the norm,” said Columbia University political scientist Dorian Warren, “because even when you look at the high-skilled, high-paying jobs, they’re even adopting the low-wage model” of management. That means erratic schedules, paltry benefits, and – so far – almost no unions. “These are the quintessential example of the kinds of jobs that we have now,” said Warren, “and of the kind of job that we can expect in the future for the next few decades.” Asked yesterday about recent labor protests, a McDonald’s spokesperson emailed a statement saying, “We value and respect all the employees who work at McDonald’s restaurants” and that the majority of its stores are franchisee-run restaurants “where employees are paid competitive wages, and have access to flexible schedules and quality, affordable benefits.”