Online Staff Report
Fast-food workers in Rockford will strike Thursday, Dec. 4, joining a growing movement for $15 an hour and union rights that has spread to 190 cities across the country — more cities than ever before.
Two years after New York City fast-food workers sparked a nationwide movement for higher pay and rights on the job, the “Fight for $15” continues to grow and gain momentum. Striking McDonald’s workers from Peoria, Illinois, clergy, community, and labor supporters will join fast-food workers on the strike lines.
Across the country, airport workers will come together with fast-food workers as the Fight for $15 reaches a new low-wage industry in the service sector. The Home Care Fight for $15 will continue to grow, with the movement doubling in reach since its launch in September. In many cities, home care workers will protest alongside their clients. And the fast-food strikes will continue to hit new cities, with workers walking off their jobs for the first time in Jackson, Mississippi; Knoxville, Tennessee; and Buffalo, New York.
A local strike rally will be at 8:15 a.m., Thursday, Dec. 4, at McDonald’s, 3710 Auburn St., Rockford. Then, a Speak-Out and Protest March will begin at 11 a.m. at Unitarian Universalist Church, 4848 Turner St., Rockford.
The strikes will come one week after Walmart workers led nationwide strikes on and leading up to Black Friday to protest the company’s illegal threats against workers calling for $15 an hour and full-time work. The growing Fight for $15 has been credited with elevating the debate around inequality in the U.S. Slate called the movement a “stunning success” and wrote that, “dedicated fast-food workers have managed to completely rewire how the public and politicians think about wages.”
What seemed like a far-fetched goal — $15 an hour — is now a reality in SeaTac and Seattle, where Bloomberg News said the city adopted “the rallying cry of fast-food workers” and where local low-wage airport workers played a leading role in winning the historic wage increase.
In November, San Francisco became the third city in the U.S. to adopt a $15 minimum wage, and since the first strike in 2012, 7.6 million low-wage workers across the country have gotten raises through local ballot measures, city and state legislation, and contract negotiations.
“The fast-food giants have seemed clumsy, and wrong-footed by the surge of protest,” according to the New Yorker, responding to the workers by telling them to get a second job, sing away their stress and apply for public assistance. But fast-food workers have responded by turning up their movement. At their first nationwide convention in Chicago last summer, they vowed to do whatever it takes to win $15 and union rights, and in September, nearly 500 were arrested during strikes that hit 150 cities. Now, inspired by the bold national actions of fast-food workers, home care and airport workers are joining together for higher pay and union rights.
The Fight for $15 is drawing support from key political figures. President Barack Obama praised the fast-food workers, saying in a Labor Day speech that they are, “organizing to lift wages so they can provide for their families with pride and dignity.” And Hillary Clinton applauded them in a speech to leading Democrats, calling the fast-food workers’ fight for higher pay, “a movement that is not waiting for Washington with its gridlock and grandstanding.”
The urgent need for solutions to America’s low-wage crisis is already emerging as a key issue in the run-up to the 2016 election. In the New York Times, David Leonhardt wrote, “[a]s the 2016 presidential campaign begins to stir, the central question will be how both parties respond to the great wage slowdown.”
Posted Dec. 3, 2014