On Thursday fast food workers across the nation walked out in their latest strike to demand a living wage and the right to unionize. This time they are joined by other service and retail sector workers including home health care aides and airport service employees.
The two-day strike was organized by Good Jobs Nation and workers in 190 U.S. cities are participating.
Al Jazeera America reports that if the organizers’ estimates prove correct it will be the largest work stoppage in the history of the fast food industry. It is also the first time since the movement began two years ago that workers other industries of the service and retail sector will be included in the walk-outs.
Airport Workers United sent a letter to the CEOs of several airlines, pointing out their value to the airlines and their sub-contractors who choose to pay them poverty wages (which force them to take second jobs and rely on government help to survive), announcing to them that their members would be joining the fast food workers, home health care workers and retail employees in the strike.
“We work hard and we care about our passengers because we work face to face with them every day,” the letter states. “But we don’t understand why, when we work so hard for you, that you and the subcontractors you hire are going out of your way to try to keep us in poverty.”
Andrew Ferguson, who works in a Detroit area Dollar Tree store, said that he decided to join the strike after he was approached by organizers from Detroit 15 (D-15), a fast food workers organization fighting for a $15 minimum wage.
“The area where I live in Detroit, most people are struggling,” he said. “I’m one of those people who’s struggling. I would personally just love to make a livable wage, because I’m passionate about my job, I enjoy working in retail, and I enjoy working with people.”
After two years at Dollar Tree, he is earning $8.30 an hour with no hope of being promoted to a full-time position; full-time is reserved for management only and all other employees work 4 to 5 hours a day, often 7 days a week.
This is the first time that Ferguson has ever participated in a strike. When asked if he feared retaliation, he said that he has confidence that D-15 will be able to protect him from being fired with the strength of numbers.
“I believe that I have nothing to worry about, personally,” he said. “I’m trying to stand up for the small people who don’t get their voices heard, who are afraid to stand up for themselves.”
One of the main targets of the strikes, McDonald’s Corporation has shrugged off the strikes saying in an emailed statement:
“These are not ‘strikes,’ but are organized rallies for which demonstrators are transported to various locations, and are often paid for their participation. At McDonald’s we respect everyone’s right to peacefully protest.”
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