The McJobs Revolt

by Karl Grant on May 14, 2013

Last week, Detroit and St. Louis became the latest cities engulfed by a wave of fast-food strikes. In both cities, hundreds of workers stopped work at major national chains like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Subway.

Striking employees are campaigning for a living wage of $15 an hour, twice the current national minimum wage, and the right to form a union. These strikes come on the heels of recent walkouts of fast-food workers in Chicago and New York that have offered a glimpse of the potential for a new labor movement in the U.S.

The emerging fast-food worker movement has developed an iterative organizing strategy aimed at bypassing the tremendous obstacles that have blunted the growth of workers organizations in the industry thus far. High turnover rates are just one factor that renders a traditional organizing strategy geared towards achieving a National Labor Relations Board-recognized majority in a single worksite obsolete.

Instead, we have seen small sparks in city after city that could flare up into a nation-wide conflagration, providing the material basis for new types of institutions able to mobilize millions of low-wage workers to fight for and win improved working conditions.

Spearheaded by the Service Employees International Union, local campaigns have forged alliances with community and faith organizations to offer workers a strong support network as they walk off the job. Rather than relying on the National Labor Relations Board for protection against retaliation from management, strikers have marched back to work together with community allies in order to send a strong message about their right to have a voice on the job.

As a new low-wage worker movement gains traction, socialists and labor activists need to find ways to deepen and widen the impact of these organizing efforts. One potential way forward is to link the activity around fast-food workers with that of Walmart workers organizing for respect on the job through solidarity organizations tailored to fit within the coalitions of the 99% developing around this movement.

This is necessary because, so far, organized socialists are conspicuously absent from the emerging alliances of faith-based progressive organizations, workers centers, community organizations, and traditional unions driving this fight forward. Rather than act as enthusiastic hangers-on, parachuting in to demos with revolutionary slogans and transitional demands, socialists need to be the organizers moving workers around their concerns, wants, and needs and take part in the collective discussion about how to build workers’ power on unfavorable terrain.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Saturn May 14, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Awesome article, it’s totally a train that socialists are currently missing and should get on, and I welcome the change of this being short and sweet.

Reply

Darwin26 May 14, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Yes, this is a good sign. I know that technically Unions cannot strike for higher wages ~ (how that happened is probably a good guess the Corpratocrats had pressure on the Govt NLRB IE stooges) But it’s always about better wages and now Living Wage is the cry, finally! I don’t know how a retired hard core Socialist /political activist can get in front of this. I don’t eat at those places unless it’s life or death ~
If there were some literature to leaflet that’d be something i can do?

Will in Billings, Montana

Reply

Gregory A. Butler May 18, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Of course unions can strike for higher wages – where did you get the idea that we couldn’t?

You can get LEGALLY REPLACED BY SCABS if you have an economic strike, but that doesn’t mean you can’t strike.

Reply

Pham Binh May 15, 2013 at 9:43 am

Good point re: the utter inability of the sect form to merge with the class in motion. Instead, they function as parasites, trying to pick off one or two recruits that they can shape and mold in their image.

Reply

David Berger May 17, 2013 at 11:31 am

KARL GRANT: [S]o far, organized socialists are conspicuously absent from the emerging alliances of faith-based progressive organizations, workers centers, community organizations, and traditional unions driving this fight forward. Rather than act as enthusiastic hangers-on, parachuting in to demos with revolutionary slogans and transitional demands, socialists need to be the organizers moving workers around their concerns, wants, and needs and take part in the collective discussion about how to build workers’ power on unfavorable terrain.

DAVID BERGER: Actually, in New York, which the article doesn’t mention, the “organized left” is very much involved in these campaigns. Partially on their own, and partially in tandem with labor groups in OWS, Socialist Action, ISO, Solidarity and Workers World, that I’m aware of is involved.

PHAM BINH: Good point re: the utter inability of the sect form to merge with the class in motion. Instead, they function as parasites, trying to pick off one or two recruits that they can shape and mold in their image.

DAVID BERGER: Wrong as usual. It seems to me that people who want to criticize left involvement in organizing ought to be doing so from the inside. Meetings of the Occupy Wall Street Labor Outreach Committee are every Tuesday, 6:30 PM, in the Atrium of 60 Wall Street.

Reply

Pham Binh May 30, 2013 at 10:34 am

Seattle is the latest place to get hit in this working-class guerrilla war:
http://www.thenation.com/blog/174577/fast-food-workers-striking-seattle

Reply

Pham Binh June 3, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Great coverage of the Seattle fast-food strikes with pictures!
http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2013/05/30/supersize-my-salary-now

Reply

David Berger June 3, 2013 at 3:30 pm

I suggest that anyone who wants to get involved with the struggles of the fast-food workers here in New York (and other struggles) attend the next (or any) meeting of the Occupy Wall Street Labor Outreach Committee. It meets every Tuesday evening, 6:30, in the atrium of 60 Wall Street. (How’s that for irony?)

Reply

Pham Binh June 7, 2013 at 10:49 am
Pham Binh June 24, 2013 at 10:48 am

“At the Seattle fast-food worker rally, SEIU organizers invited Democrat politicians to speak but denied speaking rights to Socialist Alternative candidate Kshama Sawant: the only candidate openly fighting for a $15 an hour minimum wage!”
http://www.socialistalternative.org/news/article14.php?id=2143

Most likely this is because these Democratic officeholders called managers at fast food places to “remind” (i.e. threaten) them that firing people for striking is illegal:
http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2013/05/31/raise-wages-and-fast-food-restaurants-would-collapse-o-rly

Actions like that do a lot more for the fight for $15 than a paper position of $15, no matter how real or genuine that pledge is.

Reply

David Berger (RED DAVE) June 24, 2013 at 2:34 pm

ERNESTO AGUILAR: Last week, Detroit and St. Louis became the latest cities engulfed by a wave of fast-food strikes. In both cities, hundreds of workers stopped work at major national chains like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Subway. Striking employees are campaigning for a living wage of $15 an hour, twice the current national minimum wage, and the right to […]

“At the Seattle fast-food worker rally, SEIU organizers invited Democrat politicians to speak but denied speaking rights to Socialist Alternative candidate Kshama Sawant: the only candidate openly fighting for a $15 an hour minimum wage!”

http://www.socialistalternative.org/news/article14.php?id=2143

PHAM BINH: Most likely this is because these Democratic officeholders called managers at fast food places to “remind” (i.e. threaten) them that firing people for striking is illegal:

http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2013/05/31/raise-wages-and-fast-food-restaurants-would-collapse-o-rly

DAVID BERGER: Now, what we should expect from this link is some evidence that, in fact, “Democratic officeholders called managers at fast food places … .” However, note that tricky little phrase of Binh’s, “most likely.” What it means is that this statement of fact: “Democratic officeholders called managers at fast food places … ” is the most likely, the most logical, most believable explanation for something. And the link should support that. However, the link makes no reference to any phone calls or even gives any hints that would permit an inference that they were made. What it says about the Democrats is entirely different:

SLOG LINK: A host of local Democrats have come out in support of the fast food strikes and say they support a living wage. But staffers for both Mayor Mike McGinn and Council Member O’Brien refused to say how much that wage should be. Fast food strikers are calling for a raise to $15 per hour. That’s still $1.54 below what the wage would be if it had kept up with inflation rises in productivity since 1968.

“The reason the mayor and all these Democrats won’t say anything about the actual figures,” socialist city council candidate Kshama Sawant says, “is you have to take on big business.” Sawant is calling for an across-the-board wage increase in Seattle to $15 per hour. “What’s happening in Sea-Tac is a great example of how this could be done,” she says.

DAVID BERGER: No references to telephone calls. Just a statement of how mealy-mouthed the Democrats have been. But note the reference in the post to Kshama Sawant, socialist candidate for city council in Seattle, who, to great fanfare on this website, got 23% of the vote.

PHAM BINH: Actions like that do a lot more for the fight for $15 than a paper position of $15, no matter how real or genuine that pledge is.

DAVID BERGER: So now we can see what this post is all about. A few months ago, the ISO was being castigated on this website for not supporting Sawant. Now, even supporting a socialist candidate is not sufficient. Actions like fictional Democrats making nonexistent phone calls to unknown managers are more important than the socialist Sawant “calling for an across-the-board wage increase in Seattle to $15 per hour.” So the thing to do for real action is get behind those Democrats!

Reply

Pham Binh June 24, 2013 at 2:40 pm

How did you mix up Ernesto Aguilar with Karl Grant?

Also, you managed to miss the key part of the article from The Stranger:
“The manager wasn’t there, so O’Brien called him. “I was just escorting a couple of your workers back to work today,” O’Brien said. “Carlos is returning to work unconditionally for his regular shifts. And I want to remind you that the workers have a federally protected right to strike—” The manager stopped him, saying he’d already heard that spiel three times this morning.”

That’s two strikes in one post.

Reply

Karl Grant June 24, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Photos of Councilmember O’Brien escorting striking workers back, reading mgmt a warning against retaliation:

http://obrien.seattle.gov/2013/05/31/the-poverty-strike/
http://www.kirotv.com/news/news/fast-food-workers-return-jobs-after-walkouts/nX8Kf/

Citation for Senator Murray participating in anti-retaliation action:

http://www.seattlemet.com/news-and-profiles/publicola/seattle-mayors-race-february-2013/articles/with-labor-rocking-seattle-today-we-had-one-question-for-all-the-mayoral-cadidates-may-2013

I think its incisive to note the way the campaign was able to leverage local Democratic politicians towards concretely building the effectiveness of the strike while all the radical left had to offer was radical denunciations from the outside.

Reply

Pham Binh July 21, 2013 at 6:38 pm

It’s a sad state of affairs when a bourgeois party like the Democrats is more rooted in and has stronger organic ties to the working class in motion than any socialist group. Claims that the existing organizational forms are not a barrier to re-merging the socialist and worker movements are no longer tenable. The most important strikes in 1934 and 1936 were organized and led from the inside of the working class by the CP, SP, and SWP whereas their would-be imitators today are limited to hectoring from the outside. So long as this situation and the organizing model that gives rise to it persists, the socialist movement’s future in America is even dimmer than organized labor’s future.

Reply

David Berger (RED DAVE) July 21, 2013 at 8:23 pm

This is just a rant with no content other than Binh’s bile. The relationship of the Left to the working class is an evolving process. To judge it by today’s conditions is rather like judging New York a week before Hurricane Sandy and claiming the City had no potential problems.

The DP that Binh is so in love with is busy selling out the working class faster than greased shit. And as to his charge about the DP ties to the working class, I have no doubt that the warden of a prison has more ties to a prisoner in solitary than his/her own family.

In any event, it was not the Democrats who organized over 100 demos across the country to protest the Zimmerman decision, nor is it the Democrats out there on the picket line with the nurses at Long Island College Hospital.

As to Binh’s charge about the organizing model of the Left, let’s see a better one. Many of us on the Left are striving to do just that: working with whatever segments of the working class are actually in motion (like the fast food workers).

I hope, by the way, that if The North Star itself is intended to be a model, you can get some better recruits than the Last Superpower bunch.

Reply

Pham Binh July 21, 2013 at 8:59 pm

The organized socialist left’s relationship to the working class in this country has been “evolving” nowhere fast since McCarthyism some 70 years ago and with no end in sight, even with the relative upsurge in militancy and the return of radicalism heralded by Occupy. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results and it would be just this kind of insanity to spend the next 70 years trying to build any existing group (or forming a new sect) and expecting a socialist left with a meaningful following in the working class to result from those efforts.

My remarks are not about “the left” in general but a historically specific part of the left which, last time I checked, neither of us are card-carrying members of, unless you’ve joined some red outfit without declaring so publicly. The North Star is a means, not an end, so talk of “recruits” on your part is an indication of how narrow-minded your organizational horizons are.

The fact remains that when workers or oppressed people take any action, who do they turn to first for material aid, support, and political leadership, the Democratic Party or organized socialists? When we can honestly say the latter rather than the former, then the socialist movement has gotten somewhere, and facilitating that progress is what this site is about. We may fail but it’s hard to fail harder than the existing socialist organizations whose combined memberships number fewer than they did in 1898 when the country was much smaller, and after the greatest economic and political crisis capitalism has experienced in 80 years no less! Given how low the bar has been set by the existing groups, I think new forms, methods, and strategies are worth a shot.

You are more than welcome to disagree; it’s why we have a comment section.

Reply

David Berger (RED DAVE) July 22, 2013 at 2:56 pm

PHAM BINH: The organized socialist left’s relationship to the working class in this country has been “evolving” nowhere fast since McCarthyism some 70 years ago and with no end in sight
DAVID BERGER: Too bad you weren’t around during the 60s and 70s to see groups like the IS, that weren’t crazy, straining every resource to win a relationship to the working class. Some of that work, has positive results to this day. The problem has been that we are dealing with, not as Trotsky put it, a crisis of working class leadership, but a crisis of the working class itself.
PHAM BINH: even with the relative upsurge in militancy and the return of radicalism heralded by Occupy.
DAVID BERGER: If you were involved in Occupy you would know that various left groups have been active on the labor front there since the first days in Zuccotti Park and have continued that activity, in a very nonsectarian way, ever since.
What you refuse to admit, notice, make reference to, is that in any period there is a limit to how close to the working class left groups can get. We are just ending a period where, in the major industrial countries, the organized left having a direct relationship with the working class was virtually impossible.
PHAM BINH: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results
DAVID BERGER: I agree. Why, then, are you advocating entry into the Democratic Party, which has failed over and over again?
PHAM BINH: and it would be just this kind of insanity to spend the next 70 years trying to build any existing group (or forming a new sect) and expecting a socialist left with a meaningful following in the working class to result from those efforts.
DAVID BERGER: Learning from what is occurring in front of your eyes doesn’t seem to be your strong suit. Groups like the RCP or the LRP are just the kind of hide-bound sects that seem to irk you so much. However, groups such as the ISO (where you seem to have caught some kind of a disease, sectophobia), Solidarity, Socialist Action, even the WWP, are all working together in a very cooperative way. If you had ever attended meetings of any of the consituents of the Occupy Wall Street Labor Alliance, you might have seen this taking place.
PHAM BINH: My remarks are not about “the left” in general but a historically specific part of the left which, last time I checked, neither of us are card-carrying members of, unless you’ve joined some red outfit without declaring so publicly.

DAVI BERGER: No, I haven’t joined any groups. I just work with them cooperatively and have some respect for them, unlike yourself.

PHAM BINH: The North Star is a means, not an end, so talk of “recruits” on your part is an indication of how narrow-minded your organizational horizons are.
DAVID BERGER: Your ability to twist words and trivialize notions is worthy of Madison Avenue or the Democratic Party. I was criticizing you for entertaining scum like the Last Superpower, not claiming that TNS was a membership group.
PHAM BINH: The fact remains that when workers or oppressed people take any action, who do they turn to first for material aid, support, and political leadership, the Democratic Party or organized socialists?
DAVID BERGER: Reminds of when abused children or spouses insist on remaining with their abuser. Governor Cuomo in New York, trying to shut down Long Island College Hospital, shows exactly what the DP is worth.
PHAM BINH: When we can honestly say the latter rather than the former, then the socialist movement has gotten somewhere

DAVID BERGER: Ask the fast food workers in New York who they would prefer to work with: Occupy Wall Street Labor Alliance or Christine Quinn? We are talking about a process. I find it bizarre how you demonize the left at the very beginning of a new period of engagement with the working class.
PHAM BINH: and facilitating that progress is what this site is about. We may fail but it’s hard to fail harder than the existing socialist organizations whose combined memberships number fewer than they did in 1898 when the country was much smaller, and after the greatest economic and political crisis capitalism has experienced in 80 years no less! Given how low the bar has been set by the existing groups, I think new forms, methods, and strategies are worth a shot.
DAVID BERGER: New forms are definitely worth a shot. But the existing groups have and do serve a purpose. Among other things, they are the memory of the working class. They keep alive, often in a distorted way but they do it, the memory of past struggles and techniques. The loss of much of this experience has been a major loss for the working class.
PHAM BINH: You are more than welcome to disagree; it’s why we have a comment section.

DAVID BERGER: What I disagree with more than anything else is your endless, ignorant demonizing of the tattered but experienced members and groups of the organized left.

Reply

Pham Binh July 22, 2013 at 3:15 pm

“Learning from what is occurring in front of your eyes doesn’t seem to be your strong suit. Groups like the RCP or the LRP are just the kind of hide-bound sects that seem to irk you so much. However, groups such as the ISO (where you seem to have caught some kind of a disease, sectophobia), Solidarity, Socialist Action, even the WWP, are all working together in a very cooperative way. If you had ever attended meetings of any of the consituents of the Occupy Wall Street Labor Alliance, you might have seen this taking place.”

It’s great that people are learning to play nice in the sandbox but how much closer does doing so get to re-merging the working class and socialist movements? In 1901, the Social Democratic Party of America and a split from the Socialist Labor Party of America decided to merge into the Socialist Party and start running candidates for office. After 1-2 decades and a lot of work, they had a not insignificant following among workers in this country. It would be great to see something along these lines today, but none of the sects seem interested in this kind of project or that kind of success preferring instead to stay in their corners of the sandbox. Really it’s a pity for all of us.

Reply

Pham Binh July 23, 2013 at 11:38 am

The revolt continues in NYC over the lack of air conditioners.
http://socialistworker.org/2013/07/23/no-air-conditioning-no-peace

Reply

David Berger (RED DAVE) July 23, 2013 at 11:55 am

BIG RALLY WEDNESDAY NIGHT IN BROOKLYN

https://www.facebook.com/events/483163228432938/

Reply

Michael Kors December 1, 2014 at 4:55 pm

meaning the ban remains overturned.00001MonthsTacklesInterceptionsFumblesSplitGPTcklSoloAstSckStfStfYdsIntYdsAvgLngTDPDFF September————–October24400.00001By OpponentTacklesInterceptionsFumblesSplitGPTcklSoloAstSckStfStfYdsIntYdsAvgLngTDPDFFVs.2182.031. It’s been a battle and I’ve just got to figure it out.NOTES: The Twins placed 3B Trevor Plouffe on the seven-day DL with a concussion. if they began to fight again. the greater the chance that it will spread and the more it will undermine the national elections set for April 30. see or .
[url=http://mkoutlet.pdcc.co.uk/]Michael Kors[/url]
Michael Kors

Reply

nike air jordan melo 8 December 3, 2014 at 7:12 am

With the help of folklore expert Twm Elias and dendochronologist Nigel Nayling, Neil Oliver investigates the legend. He visits Sarn Gynfelyn, a natural causeway integral to the legend, and Borth Sands where the remains of an ancient forest are revealed at low tide. Another cluster of ancient tree stumps is located in the mouth of the Dovey Estuary.

Reply

zentai costumes December 5, 2014 at 1:21 pm

Do I eat some food? Terrible yes. I need food. That my opportunity. The order finalizing and handling time is 3 5 business days, And buyer will obtain message from me with tracking info and Shipping service details within 24 hours of item being shipped. Item usually arrives within 7 12 business days after attaining your tracking number. Don miss out on this stage/rental quality costume that would be amazing for any occasion where a super hero costume is required.
zentai costumes http://www.organiclea.org.uk/wp-content/backup-0e37f/cache/

Reply

Leave a Comment

{ 17 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: