Emboldened by Victories in CA, NY, PA, Fast-Food Workers in New Hampshire Walk off Job, One of Record 320 Strikes Nationwide Demanding $15, Union Rights
More than Fast-Food: Home Care, Child Care, Airport, Workers Flood Manchester Protesting against Low Pay, Tax Avoidance by Corporations
Workers across Service Sector Zero In on McDonald’s
as Symbol of What’s Wrong with Economy
Manchester, NH – Emboldened by a historic string of victories for $15/hour from California to New York to Pennsylvania, fast-food, home care, child care, higher education, and other underpaid workers intensified their Fight for $15/hour and union rights in Manchester Thursday. Before sunrise, local fast-food cooks and cashiers walked off the job, part of a nationwide walkout in a record 320 cities.
Holding signs that read, “McJobs Cost Us All” and “McWages Hold Us All Back,” underpaid workers poured into Manchester streets Thursday, stressing – days ahead of Tax Day – that low wages and tax avoidance by companies like McDonald’s are holding back workers and communities across the country.
Workers zeroed-in on McDonald’s because the world’s second-largest employer and the industry leader in the fast food and service economies is driving a race to the bottom that is undercutting wages across the economy and resulting in nearly 64 million workers being paid less than $15.
“We need $15 too,” said Nashua worker Rob Mercier, who walked off the job and is paid just $9.25 after 4 years on the job. “Workers in New York and California and Pennsylvania showed that we can win $15 if we stick together, we will win in New Hampshire and every other part of the country too.”
New Hampshire workers will join thousands of other underpaid workers in Boston for the moment of silence in remembrance of Jeffrey Pendleton, a Manchester, NH Burger King worker and Fight for $15 member who died in police custody in March after he was arrested for a minor offense and could not afford a $100 bail. Each protest will hold a moment of silence for Jeffrey. The Fight for $15 is dedicating the April 14 strike to Pendleton, a vocal proponent for higher pay and union rights, who participated in the first-ever fast-food strike in New Hampshire last month.
Fast-food, home care, child care, university, airport, retail, building service, and other workers are demanding that McDonald’s change its business model and use its massive economic power to lift up working families across the globe instead of dragging them down.
Nationwide, the Fight for $15 strikes spread beyond the fast-food industry, as hospital workers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and nursing home workers across Florida walked off their jobs. A strike by 40,000 Verizon workers entered its second day Thursday, and walkouts also spilled overseas, as cooks and cashiers at Europe’s second largest McDonald’s, at Disneyland Paris, shut down the store early Thursday morning to demand higher pay and a union. Protests are taking place Thursday in 40 countries spanning six continents.
Across New York, California and at UPMC, workers who have already won life-changing raises to $15/hour walked off the job Thursday to stress their demand that companies respect their right to join a union without retaliation, and to show support for other underpaid workers across the country who are still fighting for $15/hour. In New York, striking workers prepared for an evening march from the Times Square McDonald’s—where the Fight for $15 began in 2012—across town to a $1,000-a-plate GOP gala featuring Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, all of whom oppose raising wages. In Cleveland, fast-food, home care, and other underpaid workers announced a November ballot initiative to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15/hour.
A ‘Hot Political Issue’
The strike comes as workers have made $15 and union rights a “hot political issue” in the race for the White House, according to the Associated Press.
Everywhere candidates go this primary season, workers in the Fight for $15 have followed closely behind, forcing White House hopefuls to address the demands of the nearly 64 million Americans paid less than $15/hour. Ahead of debates in cities like Milwaukee, Detroit, Flint, Miami, Houston, and Charleston, fast-food workers went on strike for $15 and union rights and marched on the debates, calling on candidates to “come get our vote.” On four occasions in the debates, candidates were pressed by moderators to respond to workers in the Fight for $15, including in November, when the first question directed at GOP candidates asked them to respond to the demands of fast-food workers outside the Milwaukee Theatre demanding $15/hour and union rights.
The Democratic Party adopted a $15/hour platform, the Democratic candidates for president have lined up in support of the workers in the Fight for $15, and elected leaders like Nancy Pelosi and Kristen Gillibrand back a $15/hour federal minimum wage. It’s a far cry from the situation when the campaign started—when discourse on the economy was limited to talk of debt and deficits and two lone Democrats in Congress (former Sen. Tom Harkin and former U.S. Rep. George Miller) were the only ones brave enough to even call for $10.10/hour.
$15/Hour: A New Benchmark
The Fight for $15 has built a growing awareness that $15/hour is the minimum wage level American workers in every part of the country need to survive and pay for the necessities to support their families. In addition to statewide increases to $15/hour in New York and California, cities including Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles have raised their minimum wage to $15/hour. And home care workers in Massachusetts and Oregon won $15/hour statewide minimum wages. Companies including Facebook, Aetna, Amalgamated Bank, and Nationwide Insurance have raised pay to $15/hour or higher; workers in nursing homes, public schools and hospitals have won $15/hour via collective bargaining; and fast-food workers have ratcheted up pressure on companies like McDonald’s to raise pay to $15/hour.
Slate, among others, has credited the Fight for $15 with completely rewiring “how the public and politicians think about wages.” MSNBC said the Fight for $15, “entirely changed the politics of the country, and Fortune said the Fight for $15 “transformed labor organizing from a process often centered on nickel-and-dime negotiations with a single employer into a social justice movement that transcends industry and geographic boundaries.”
McDonald’s Under Fire on Both Sides of the Atlantic
The movement is also gaining momentum overseas, as workers across the globe are increasingly joining together to hold McDonald’s accountable. On Thursday, workers in 40 countries on six continents protested at McDonald’s restaurants, with marches in cities ranging from Sao Paolo to Seoul and London to Lagos.
The global protests come as McDonald’s is facing scrutiny by federal regulators from South America to Europe. Late last year, the European Commission opened an investigation into McDonald’s following allegations by trade unions and NGOs that the company has dodged more than one billion euros in taxes since 2009. In January, Italian consumer groups filed an antitrust complaint with the European Commission, alleging exorbitant rents and onerous contracts thrust upon franchisees give the company an unfair advantage.
In March, Brazilian prosecutors said they were investigating alleged “fiscal and economic crimes” committed by McDonald’s, including suspected tax avoidance and violations of Brazil’s franchise and competition laws. Meanwhile, in the U.S., the federal government continues to prosecute its case against the company for violating federal labor laws, charging both McDonald’s and its franchisees with illegally threatening, intimidating, firing and otherwise retaliating against workers who had joined together in the Fight for $15.
Fast-food workers went on strike Thursday in over 300 cities across the country.