They Need Higher Pay to Survive in New York City

By Harry Kelber | The American Labor Reform Movement | December 12, 2 012

Hundreds of workers in New York City’s, fast-food restaurants voluntarily walked off their jobs .on Nov. 29 in a 1-day strike, the first time such joint action has happened in the industry.

In many instances, the spontaneous work stoppage began at 11:30 a.m., during the mid-day rush lunch hour, when customers were lining up to be served. Fast-food workers joined the strike. from McDonald’s, Burger King, Domino’s, Wendy’s, Pizza Hut and just about every well-known fast-food eating place. The workers complained about the low wages, mostly limited to the federal hourly minimum of $7.25, with only a few earning a couple of dollars more.

They Realized that a Union Could Help Them Win Higher Pay

Union organizers often have to spend weeks trying to reach out to potential new members, meeting them secretly in bars and hideaways. Not so with fast-food restaurant workers. You can reach them by ordering a hamburger and get acquainted with them, even on a daily basis

What makes it easier to organize these workers is that they come in daily contact with customers who are pro-worker and who talk up the advantages of belonging to a union.

The AFL-CIO needs some significant organizing victories to bolster its fading reputation. Adding 50,000 or more fast food restaurant workers to its membership rolls would be a big boost, while helping these workers win higher wages. It would be of great benefit to unions that are trying to organize the city’s restaurant industry

It is shocking that only one of eight American workers belongs to a uinion, the lowest percentage in the industrially developed countries of the world. It is just as shocking that AFL-CIO President Trumka has given almost no attention to recruiting new members, as though it is not their problem.

When will Trumka and the Executive Committee come up with a national organizing plan to start rebuilding the AFL-CIO to the time when one in four workers were union members, before the 1970s?

Is organizing low-wage earners in the fast-food industry a good place to begin?

Let’s hope Trumka will forgo his habitual silence and answer this question.

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