July 29, 2014
By Neal Tepel
Chicago, IL. – More than 1,300 fast-food workers from across the country unanimously passed a resolution Saturday July 26th to “do whatever it takes,” including striking and engaging in civil disobedience, to win $15 and a union. The vote came during a two-day nationwide convention of fast-food workers, the first of its kind, outside Chicago, IL.
“When this movement started 21 months ago, people thought $15 an hour was a fantasy. They laughed at you,” said SEIU President Mary Kay Henry to a packed crowd Friday July 25th. “Now, because of your courage and hard work, it will become a reality. You made it a reality for workers in Seattle, for school employees in Los Angeles, for hospital workers in Baltimore. You – the fast-food worker movement – are helping to build the largest, most inclusive, most united, most determined movement for working families that modern America has ever seen.”
Since fast-food workers first walked off their jobs in New York City in November 2012, the campaign has spread to every corner of the country – and globe. The workers’ calls for $15 – once considered implausible – is today the benchmark for cities and states around the country. Local elected officials and businesses are increasingly taking steps to raise wages. Seattle recently passed a $15 minimum wage, and cities from San Francisco to Chicago to Los Angeles are adopting the fast-food workers’ rallying cry.
In total, more than 6.7 million workers have seen their wages increased since the fast-food workers’ movement began. All 13 states that have raised their minimum wage in 2014 have had stronger employment growth than the 37 states that did not, according to a recent report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Companies like GAP that have raised wages say they are already seeing benefits, as well.
Despite overwhelming public support for raising wages and economic evidence that higher wages boosts businesses’ bottom line and spurs the economy, fast-food companies refuse to take action.
At McDonald’s recent annual shareholder meeting, where 101 workers were arrested, McDonald’s claimed it pays “fair wages” and provides “first jobs for those entering the workforce.” Yet the average fast-food salary is less than $9 an hour, and the median age of fast-food workers is 29 years old, and 32 for females. More than 1 in 4 are workers raising children.
“The fight for $15 and a union is the civil rights struggle of today. We’re prepared to do whatever it takes, even if it involves personal risk, to win,” said Laquita Jackson, 33, who has worked at McDonald’s in Memphis, TN for 10 years and makes $8.10 an hour. “Winning justice didn’t come easy for Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks or Cesar Chavez and it won’t come easy for us. But being at the convention, surrounded by thousands of fast-food workers just as dedicated as me, I know that we are going to win.”