While most Chicagoans were bracing for a major snowstorm, 130 truck drivers who deliver food from warehouses to cafeterias and kitchens spent the first weekend in January preparing for another kind of storm: a strike. US Foods had stalled negotiations over wages, health care, and safety provisions. At 12:01 a.m. on Monday, January 8, Teamsters Local 705 picket lines went up at the Bensenville, Illinois, facility. Over the next three weeks, Teamsters extended the Bensenville line nationwide. Rolling pickets hit more than two dozen US Foods distribution centers and drop yards from Los Angeles to Indiana to New Jersey, paralyzing its operations in some of the nation’s highest-volume markets.
In early October, thousands of bartenders, culinary workers, and hotel attendants formed a picket line outside eight casino resorts on the Las Vegas Strip. It was the largest union demonstration on Las Vegas Boulevard in 20 years. Since April, the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and the Bartenders Union Local 165have been negotiating with the city’s three largest companies—MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment, and Wynn Resorts—for a new five-year contract. To no avail, says Ted Pappageorge, who has served as the culinary union’s secretary-treasurer since 2022 and was its president for more than a decade before that.
Restaurant workers have one of the most tiring jobs, yet many industry professionals remain notoriously underpaid. Employees often rely on customer tips to make a livable wage, adding another layer of stress to the already tense working environment. Sadly, most restaurants in the U.S. transfer the cost of labor onto customers in the form of tips, leaving their hard-working employees with no safety net. But the owners of a San Francisco eatery have been defying the status quo for years with their “tip-free” model that offers all their staff a living wage with full benefits and even a share of the restaurant’s profits.
Midtown, New York City, New York - SEIU Local 32BJ held a rally and march yesterday in support of Chipotle workers seeking unionization, reliable scheduling and a raise in pay to $20 dollars an hour. The purple-clad procession gathered at 6th Ave. and 48th St., near the NewsCorp headquarters and Fox Square. Leaders of the local, including Executive Vice President Denis Johnston, addressed the crowd, alongside members of the New York City Council, the State Senate and the State Assembly. Councilwoman Julie Menin (District 5) and Councilman Lincoln Restler (District 33) voiced their support for the $20 dollar wage. “You all led the fight for $15; now we’re going to lead the fight for $20,” said Councilwoman Julie Menin.
Over the year’s many companies who claim to be progressive have been exposed as faux progressives once their employees begin to organize. The latest to join the list is Amy’s Kitchen, an organic and non-GMO convenience and frozen food brand that produces over 250 vegetarian and organic products that can be found in supermarkets around the country.
Food service is not an industry that most would associate as a beacon of social or economic justice. In fact, the restaurant industry is notorious for providing paltry wages, for engaging in shocking levels of wage theft, and for generally being comprised of toxic work environments marked by sexual harassment and human trafficking. In the face of horrendous work environments and staggering levels of worker exploitation, many restaurant workers and their advocates are advancing alternative models of management and ownership geared toward breaking the cycles of abuse and disempowerment that define much of the industry. One of the most interesting models being explored is the worker cooperative: businesses that are owned and run collectively by the workers themselves.
She's been denounced by Tyson Foods as a "radical union organizer," but Magaly Licolli doesn't organize unions — she organizes workers. Licolli is a leader in the workers' center movement that since the 1970s has been organizing labor difficult to formally unionize. An immigrant who developed a passion for popular education through her theater education in Mexico, Licolli served as the executive director of the now-defunct Northwest Arkansas Workers' Justice Center, a nonprofit founded in 2007 to serve the region's poultry workers, where she worked with local community organizer Fernando Garcia. In 2019 Licolli co-founded Venceremos (Spanish for "we will win"), a nonprofit community center with a similar mission. Venceremos, like the NWAWJC, belongs to the Food Chain Workers Alliance, a coalition of over 30 similar worker-based organizations representing some 375,000 food workers in the U.S. and Canada.