Columbia — On the same day that waitress Naomi Harris helped deliver a letter of demands to the management at Waffle House on Garners Ferry Road, she called the police, saying belligerent customers had poured salt and sugar into to-go cups and threw them across the restaurant’s counter. It wasn’t the first time Harris dealt with violent or unruly customers in her less than two months at the 24/7 diner chain, she said. It’s one of the things that pushed Harris and her coworkers to go on strike the morning of July 8, a week after publicly serving their petition to organize and a list of demands to Waffle House management.
For almost six years, Raymond Pearson has been working as a front-desk concierge at one of the Galaxy Towers condominiums in Guttenberg, New Jersey, answering phones, getting packages to residents, dealing with food delivery, and developing bonds with the people who live there. “The residents become your family,” says Pearson, who is 34 years old and lives in nearby North Bergen. “You’re spending a lot of time with them. I’ve seen some of the residents’ kids graduate. I’ve seen some leave for prom. The same ones who left for prom, I’ve seen them leave for college.” But it wasn’t until this year, he says, that he learned that this whole time his livelihood has been subject to a contract—made without his participation or consent—that contains a poison pill.
On the heels of a new report showing significant financial insecurity, including homelessness, among workers at Kroger grocery stores, more than 8,000 of the chain's employees in Colorado went on strike Wednesday to demand fair wages and better healthcare benefits. Amid a recent wave of successful strikes at companies including John Deere and Kellogg's, the work stoppage is taking place at nearly 80 King Sooper grocery stores, which are owned by the Kroger Company, across the Denver metropolitan area. According to the Colorado Sun, 10 additional stores in Colorado Springs could also go on strike in the coming weeks. The workers' union, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, rejected the company's "best and final offer" on Tuesday, saying the $84 billion company did not offer enough for employees to afford basic necessities.
In a petition Indianapolis Target employee Andrew Stacy drafted, one of the key demands is for a minimum $17 per hour, but when Stacy and their coworker were posting the flyers in the break room and distributing them, they were caught. Management confiscated the flyers and human resources held one-on-one meetings with workers about working conditions and higher-ups at the location—a move that Stacy saw as an illegal effort to shut down organizing and find out more about the union activity. In response, they filed a National Labor Review Board complaint on Dec. 15. Prism has reached out to Target for comment on the concerns raised by workers as well as the complaint.
Facing unlivable wages, higher-than-average injury rates, and a union-busting campaign, workers at two HelloFresh factories are pushing forward union drives. If successful, workers would form the first union in the nation’s growing meal-kit industry. Around 400 workers in Aurora, Colorado are currently casting votes, which are set to be counted on November 22. Another 850 workers in Richmond, California will receive ballots by November 18. In a petition to the company, workers say that while HelloFresh “profited from the pandemic, employees faced disrespect, a COVID-19 outbreak, and preventable injuries.” According to data collected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in 2020, the incidence rate of recordable illnesses and injuries at the Richmond factory was over three times the standard rate of the warehousing and transportation industry and five times the rate of all private companies combined.
On Oct. 7, the New Orleans City Council ratified a $15-an-hour minimum wage for city workers, effective in January. This will be $3.81 more than the paltry $11.19 minimum currently in place. Because of sky-rocketing inflation, $15 dollars doesn’t go as far as it did even a few months ago. Nevertheless, the raise is a major victory for the working-class movement here, and will be welcomed by city workers struggling to make ends meet. As reported in Struggle-La Lucha back in July, the council was forced to move forward when the firefighters’ union and allies marched into the chambers on July 1, right in the middle of a session. When put on the spot, the council members voted unanimously that they would find the money for a raise. Now it’s official.
Group home workers in Connecticut went on strike on Tuesday morning after talks with their employer, Sunrise Northeast, broke down. The workers are demanding higher wages, affordable health benefits and pensions. Sunrise runs 28 group home and day care programs for the intellectually disabled throughout Connecticut. Workers formed picket lines in front of the company’s homes in New London, Hartford, Danielson and Columbia. The workers’ responsibilities include helping residents to shower and dress and reminding them to take their medication. Like other health care workers, the group home workers have been risking their health and lives during the pandemic. As of October 13, Connecticut had recorded 2,907 new coronavirus cases and one new death during the previous week. To date, the state has seen 8,667 deaths.
The staff of a burrito restaurant in Georgia quit by posting a sign claiming they had worked seven days a week for a month with "barely any time off." Employees at the Barberitos restaurant on New Street in Macon, central Georgia, said they quit over "pay" and "lack of appreciation," per a photo of the sign shared on Facebook that was first reported by WGXA News. "We have worked 7 days a week for the past month and barely any time off. We are so sorry and love you all! old Barbs family, out," the sign read. A spokesperson for Barberitos, which has 50 branches across southeastern states, confirmed the sign's existence to WGXA, and said the staff's claim that they'd worked seven days straight for a month was "simply not true."
Food service workers are putting renewed pressure on their employers for better working conditions and wages. Businesses across the country are blaming a “workforce shortage” for being understaffed or closed. But workers in the industry say poor labor practices are pushing potential employees away. “It’s stressful working for a billion-dollar company when they’re not caring for the workers,” said Ieshia Townsend, a McDonald’s employee in Chicago, Illinois. She has worked at the McDonald’s location since 2015. “Even during COVID-19, we had to literally go on strike just for masks, just for gloves, just for supplies and protection to protect the workers, which should have been set in place.” Signs have been taped to the doors, drive-thru speakers and facades of fast-food and fast-casual restaurants with descriptions of long workdays, no lunch breaks and poor pay to accommodate for the risk of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Business owners around the country are offering up a lament: “no one wants to work.” A McDonalds franchise said they had to close because no one wants to work; North Carolina congressman David Rouzer claimed that a too-generous welfare state has turned us all lazy as he circulated photos of a shuttered fast-food restaurant supposedly closed “due to NO STAFF.” Most of these complaints seem to be coming from franchised restaurants. Why? Well, it’s not complicated. Service workers didn’t decide one day to stop working — rather huge numbers of them cannot work anymore. Because they’ve died of coronavirus. A recent study from the University of California–San Francisco looks at increased morbidity rates due to COVID, stratified by profession, from the height of the pandemic last year.
Following the passage of stimulus packages with aid for workers like expanded unemployment benefits, politicians and business owners have wrung their hands over a supposed worker shortage as people refuse to return to work, as they say. A new report pushes back on that narrative and shows that actually, it’s more likely low wages offered by businesses that are causing workers to want to quit. The report by One Fair Wage finds that 53 percent of restaurant workers have considered leaving their jobs during the pandemic, and 76 percent of restaurant workers cite low wages and tips as the reason for leaving the industry. Being paid a low wage was the most common reason for leaving by far; COVID-19 concerns were the next highest reason, with 55 percent of workers saying they were concerned about pandemic safety.
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.
Southwest Harbor, Maine – As Congress gets set to debate the Biden Pandemic relief package, one of the favorite Republican lines is the contention that an economic recovery is already well underway. Pouring more money into an accelerating economy is likely to induce seventies style inflation. It is time, they argue, for a little cautionary austerity. However politically efficacious this line may be, rosy portraits of an expanding economy hide the chronic weakness of the US economy and especially the burdens imposed on poor and minority communities. Fear of inflation on the part of Republicans is insincere and ill timed.
The Amazonification of logistics has created a new group of highly exploited workers: delivery drivers. Amazon itself increasingly relies on an expanding network of subcontracted drivers and independent contractors to deliver packages to customers’ doors. The working conditions facing Amazon’s last-mile drivers are defined by a frantic pace, low wages, and relentless pressure to meet tight delivery deadlines. Workers of color and immigrants are overrepresented, as they are in all the lowest-paying segments of last-mile logistics. When an Amazon Prime member orders an item, the first step in the delivery process begins at an Amazon Fulfillment Center, where the item is picked by a worker and put into a box, and an address label is created.
Alabama - More than 20 Shipt workers demonstrated in front of the grocery delivery company’s headquarters in downtown Birmingham Sunday afternoon. They were there to protest Shipt policies that some of the company’s delivery people – known as Shipt Shoppers – say have led to decreased wages during a global pandemic and continue to leave them without health insurance coverage, paid sick time and other benefits. Demetria Barlow has been a Shipt Shopper since 2016, two years after the company launched in Birmingham and one year before Target purchased the company for $550 million.