40 organizers are assigned to help unionizing drive

By Harry Kelber | The American Labor Reform Movement | December 4, 2012

At 11:30 a.m., on November 29, the start of the lunch-hour rush, about 100 raucous protesters swarmed Burger King. near New York City’s Penn Station, chanting and holding up signs decrying low wages at the restaurant and similar eating places.

A protester holds a sign during a demonstration outside a Burger King restaurant in support of fast-food employees on strike in New York.(Photo : Reuters)

This is the first time that food workers have ever joined together in a citywide strike that included McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Delmonico’s, Taco Bell and other popular fast food restaurants. They have received growing support from communities and civil rights organizations.

The strike erupted after the workers learned that fast-food companies had earned record profits, while paying them the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour with only some workers earning as much as $8 to $9 an hour.

The workers say it is impossible to survive in New York on such low pay. Many have to work on two jobs to support themselves and their families. They also resent the
fact that when they complain about the low pay, they are harassed, discriminated against and often fired.

The fast-food strikers say that for the work they do, they are entitled to $15 an hour. They would like to see the industry unionized, so that their wages , benefits and working conditions are determined through collective bargaining

Workers at the fast-food restaurants know that it will be difficult to win a full-fledged strike without strong assistance from existing unions, because employers will spend millions and hire top anti-labor professionals to keep the unions out of the industry,

An Ideal Opportunity for the AFL-CIO to Revive

The AFL-CIO needs to revive its dormant organizing activity, which badly needs a major victory. Why not target the fast-food restaurant workers, who, by the results of their one-day strike, demonstrated that they would respond to a major unionizing campaign?

With tens of thousands of fast-food workers already committed to the idea of joining a union, the task of organizers would be a lot easier than in most recruiting drives. A victory for the fast-food workers would give a lift to those unions in the restaurant industry.

Our AFL-CIO workers, who eat their lunches and dinners in these restaurants, would give us daily contact with the unorganized workers. They would be our best organizers, and their daily efforts would not cost the AFL-CIO a penny.

Can the AFL-CIO afford to pass up this opportunity? We want President Trumka to announce AFL-CIO support for the fast-food strikers.

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