Last week, more than 1,000 fast food workers at San Francisco International Airport went on strike for three days over low wages, health benefits and pensions. They had not received a raise in more than three years and many worked multiple jobs. Workers building the new US embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras have been on strike off and on since early July over a new contract that deprives them of fair compensation and violates Honduran labor laws. They are being fired and police are violently repressing their pickets. Clearing the FOG speaks with Ted Waechter of UNITE-HERE Local 2 in San Francisco and Honduras expert Adrienne Pine about worker struggles in the US and abroad and the need for solidarity and greater militancy to fight an economic system that values profits more than people.
Low Wage Workers
Forty-one people were arrested Friday at San Francisco International Airport as airport fast food workers protested their wages, according to Unite Here, the union that represents many SFO workers. The protesters sat on the airport road outside Terminal 3, blocking traffic. Hundreds of workers and supporters showed up to join in the protest, chanting and forming picket lines. Politicians such as State Senator Josh Becker and Assemblymember Ash Kalra were also at the protest. Most fast food workers at SFO make $17.05 per hour according to the union, which is less than many meals cost at the airport. Some workers said they have not had a raise in three years and have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. “I have to work two jobs to support my family, and I’m exhausted from living on four hours of sleep a day,” said Lucinda To, a lounge attendant at the United Club and a server at Cat Cora’s Kitchen at SFO.
Dollar General workers from across the country will be rallying at Peay Park on May 25 near its headquarters in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, during the company’s 2022 annual shareholders’ meeting. After years of being ignored, Dollar General workers are making their voices heard—by the retail chain’s executives, shareholders, and the public. Mary Gundel, thirty-three, started working as a store manager at a Dollar General store in Albany, Georgia, in February 2019. After working there for a year, she relocated to Florida to manage a store in Tampa with her husband and three children. Gundel, in an interview with The Progressive, describes the “horrible working conditions” that existed when she started working for Dollar General , such as mold in the cooler and a broken air conditioner when it was hot outside.
Workers in America’s fast-food and retail sectors who worked on the frontlines through the dangers of the Covid-19 pandemic are continuing a trend of strikes and protests over low wages, safety concerns and sexual harassment issues on the job. The Covid-19 pandemic has incited a resurgence of interest and support for the US labor movement and for low-wage workers who bore the brunt of Covid-19 risks. The unrest also comes as corporations have often reported record profits and showered executives with pay increases, stock buybacks and bonuses, while workers received minimal pay increases. Workers at billion-dollar corporations from Dollar General to McDonald’s still make on average less than $15 an hour while often being forced to work in unsafe, grueling conditions.
An alarming new survey of thousands of grocery workers across three western U.S. states reveals that they suffer from shockingly high rates of poverty. More than three-quarters of the workers meet the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s definition of “food insecure,” and 14% say they have been homeless within the past year. The survey, which was funded by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) and performed by the nonprofit research group the Economic Roundtable, drew responses from more than 10,000 workers at Kroger, the largest all-grocery chain in the United States. (Kroger also owns other grocery brands including Fred Meyer, Harris Teeter, and City Market.) The workers surveyed live in Southern California, Washington state, and Colorado, and all of them are UFCW members...
Despite the political successes of the “Fight For $15” movement, actual unionized fast food restaurants are rare. Burgerville workers in Portland, Oregon recently reached an agreement on a union contract after a years-long effort, and Starbucks workers in Buffalo and elsewhere have scheduled union elections at a number of stores. Now, 25 employees of a Tudor’s in tiny Elkview, West Virginia are joining them in the vanguard of fast food organizing by seeking to unionize with UFCW Local 400. Yesterday, they filed for a union election with the NLRB.
Portland, OR — The Burgerville Workers Union – Industrial Workers of the World (BVWU) has reached a tentative agreement with Burgerville on a historic contract to be ratified by a vote of workers in represented shops. Upon ratification, workers at Burgerville will become the only fast food workforce in the U.S. covered by a Collective Agreement. A milestone in one of the longest standing labor disputes in the Portland, OR area, this Agreement will set out a range of improvements in wages and working conditions for approximately 100 workers across five Burgerville locations. Burgerville and the BVWU have been in contract negotiations since June of 2018. “A union and a contract give workers more power at work” said Mark Medina, a member of the BVWU bargaining team.
Fast-food workers say they are fed up with their working conditions, and on Tuesday morning, they're walking out. Thousands of employees in the fast-food industry are going on strike across California, walking out for better working conditions, wages and hours and calling on lawmakers to offer them a bigger say in their futures. A McDonald's location on Floral Drive in Monterey Park, where workers allege sewers recently flooded the kitchen, is the SoCal site of the rally employees planned for 9 a.m. Other rallies in the area are planned for 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. By and large, fast-food employees are not represented by a union. But they've found ways to band together, pushing for change within the industry with previous rallies.
In less than two weeks, a tiny group of a half dozen workers in Barkhamsted, Connecticut will vote on whether to become the only unionized Dollar General store employees in America. These six people in a small town about 20 miles northwest of Hartford now find themselves positioned to gain a historic toehold for organized labor inside a booming, low-wage industry. But it will not be easy. Few companies have prospered since the beginning of the pandemic as much as Dollar General. The company boasts that three quarters of all Americans now live within five miles of one of its nearly 18,000 stores. The Washington Post reported that foot traffic at those stores has risen by a third in the past two years. Dollar General’s stock price has boomed during the pandemic, and the company is now worth almost $50 billion.
Thousands of workers of McDonald’s chain in 15 cities across the United States went on strike for wage hikes. On Wednesday, May 19, workers organized in the “Fight for 15” campaign participated in the one-day strike action across the country demanding that the minimum wages for workers at the McDonald’s chains be hiked to USD 15 per hour and the right to unionize.
When thinking of AI futures, the classic sci-fi tropes tell us that machines will one day take over and replace humans, with robots rendering work as we know it obsolete: the outcome will either be a post-work utopia or robot-human war. But that future is here, and the reality is far more mundane. Instead of eliminating human work, the AI industry is creating new ways of exploiting and obscuring workers. Lurking behind the amorphous and often abstract notion of ‘AI’ are material realities. 80 percent of machine learning development consists of repetitive data preparation tasks and ‘janitorial’ work such as collecting data, labelling data to feed algorithms, and data cleaning – tasks that are a far cry from the high glamour of the tech CEOs who parade their products on stage.
When I was in high school, my economics class read The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs. The book is a passionate appeal to help those living in the worst poverty in the world. Sachs writes that we should not worry too much about the people in second-to-last place, such as the poorly paid workers in labor-intensive industries who were then the focus of considerable debate and activism on U.S. college campuses. Sweatshop workers, Sachs conceded, were on the bottom rung of the ladder. But subsistence farmers were not on the ladder at all. Once we helped them get a foothold, they could begin ascending from textiles all the way up to high tech. I internalized Sachs’s argument, sensing it would help me feel better about the world we live in.
As the small restaurant sector reels from the devastating economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, a report published Thursday by advocates for tipped workers and a $15 minimum wage revealed that phasing out subminimum wages for such workers—which can be as low as a little over $2 an hour—does not cause businesses to close. In fact, the report—published by the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley and One Fair Wage—found that the five states with the greatest rate of decline in open hospitality businesses during the pandemic are all states with a subminimum wage. That wage was set at $2.13 under a 1996 federal law resulting largely from lobbying by then-National Restaurant Association president Herman Cain.
Fast food workers in 15 cities across the country went on a one-day strike on February 16, to demand that their employers—including McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s—pay them $15 an hour and give them union rights. The effort, which is part of the nationwide Fight for 15 movement, comes as lawmakers in Washington debate enacting a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage as part of President Biden’s first COVID-19 relief package. The strikes also honor Black History Month by emphasizing the generations of low pay and lacking workplace protections among Black workers, historical inequities that have been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, and which have left Black Americans particularly vulnerable to both the virus and its economic devastation.
The twenty-first century has seen the Trade Union Movement in Trinidad and Tobago consistently under attack, severely criticized and victimized by the ruling economic and political elites. The thousands of sugar workers were the first group of organised workers this century to suffer mass retrenchment. This, of course, has had the effect of severely weakening a once powerful union. The Unions in petroleum and petrochemical industries have seen a steady decline in their workforce Thousands of direct and indirect Petrotrin workers have been thrown on the breadline as have hundreds of workers at Arcelor Mittal and hundreds at TSTT. Jobs are disappearing at an accelerated rate in the light and heavy manufacturing industry.