Last month, New York City saw historic walkouts by fast food workers seeking better wages (our post).
These heartening demonstrations are spreading. On Wednesday, Daily Kos blogged about the day’s action in Wisconsin: “Milwaukee is the fifth city hit by such a strike in the past six weeks; there as in Chicago, retail workers are also joining the strike.” If the momentum continues, this summer could turn into a watershed for pro-worker agitation.
The Nation reported on the efforts being made to protect the striking workers:
Under US law, it’s generally illegal to “fire” workers for going on strike, but legal to “permanently replace” them–effectively terminating them by refusing to let them come back to work following the strike. Prior to striking, fast food workers in other cities have filed “Unfair Labor Practice” charges with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging law-breaking by management, which potentially protects them from being “permanently replaced.”
Unfortunately, the risks remain great. As the same article points out, “[P]ro-labor activists and academics have long argued that the lengthy process for pursuing claims of retaliation, and the limited penalties available, make the law a very weak deterrent against union-busting.”
The courage of these workers is inspiring, and a welcome change after “a multi-decade decline in US strikes.” As Daily Kos wrote:
This wave of strikes hitting multiple fast food restaurants (and, in some cases, retail stores) in a single city for a day, then showing up in another city, is truly unprecedented. Shoot, the first New York City strike back in November was unprecedented. [….] What other workers should be thinking about following their lead?
As a contextually useful addendum, a shocking statistic: an activist told The Nation that in Milwaukee, the “jobless rate for African-American men [is] over 55 percent.” Many of the jobs that are available are almost impossible to live on—but this summer, workers want to change that.