Kelly Benjamin, the local media contact for the Tampa fast-food labor movement, spoke recently with GAU co-president Megan Flocken. She shared details about the movements’ goals: a $15 minimum wage and the right to form a union.
This week, Tampa workers will strike to demonstrate the value of their labor and the importance of these goals. Coming off a convention at which they vowed to do “whatever it takes” to win $15 and the right to form a union, Tampa fast-food workers will walk off their jobs Thursday as their movement intensifies and continues to spread.
Workers are expected to strike at Tampa’s major fast-food restaurants, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell and Wendy’s. Clergy, elected officials and community supporters, including Rev. Russell Meyer, President of the Florida Council of Churches, will join fast-food workers on the strike lines.
WHO: Workers at McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Taco Bell; Community Supporters, West Central Florida Federation of Labor, Clergy, Elected officials
WHAT: FAST FOOD WORKER STRIKE
WHERE: McDonalds, 8214 N Florida Ave, Tampa, FL 33604
WHEN: Thursday, September 4 at 6AM
WHERE: McDonalds, 11707 N 56th St, Temple Terrace, FL 33617
WHEN: Thursday, September 4 at 12 NOON
Thursday’s strike comes a little more than a month after the National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel determined that, despite McDonald’s repeated claims, the company is a joint employer that exerts substantial power over its employees’ working conditions. For nearly two years, McDonald’s and other fast-food workers have been joining together and going on strike, calling for $15 and the right to form a union without retaliation. But time and time again, the company and other industry players have tried to sidestep workers’ calls, inventing a make-believe world in which responsibility for wages and working conditions falls squarely only on the shoulders of franchisees, not the corporations that control how food is served and priced.
As corporations push down real wages for average American workers, a growing number of economists warn that low wages are a barrier to growth that are harming the overall U.S. economy.
A campaign that started in New York City in November 2012, with 200 fast-food workers walking off their jobs demanding $15 and the right to form a union without retaliation, has since spread to more than 150 cities in every region of the country, including the South. The growing fight for $15 has been credited with elevating the debate around inequality in the U.S. MSNBC’s Chris Hayes said that it has “entirely changed the politics of the country.” Since the campaign launched, nearly 7 million low-wage workers have seen their wages rise. What seemed like a far-fetched goal–$15 an hour—is now a reality in Seattle, where Bloomberg News said the city adopted “the rallying cry of fast-food workers.”
As it spreads, the movement is challenging fast-food companies’ outdated notion that their workers are teenagers looking for pocket change. Today’s workers are mothers and fathers struggling to raise children on wages that are too low. And they’re showing the industry that if it doesn’t raise pay, it will continue to be at the center of the national debate on what’s wrong with our economy.
So, as a union member and labor supporter, what can you do? You can join fast-food workers on the strike lines. Publicize their message. Make your voice heard and your money talk. Keep supporting, keep organizing, and keep making labor count.