The bad news: The groups that brought you the 40-hour work week – unions - are going the way of, well, the 40-hour work week.
The good news: Here, in the greater Seattle area, there is a burgeoning and successful workers’ rights movement – driven by fast food workers. In the last year or so, the organizing efforts of local service sector workers have been key to:- paid sick leave in Seattle; and
- bringing about a public vote (SeaTac) on the Good Jobs Initiative, which would mandate a $15/hour minimum wage for hospitality, transportation, and other airport-related businesses.
Maybe you wonder, “Why does this matter to me? I don’t live in Seattle or SeaTac, I don’t eat fast food, and I don’t work in the fast food industry.” If so, allow me, please, to suggest a few questions for your consideration:
1) Would an increased minimum wage put upward pressure on wages for all workers (perhaps yours)? Intuitively, this makes sense: Increasing the minimum wage for SeaTac employees should increase pressure on employers across communities/job types/grades to up their pay in order to attract and retain workers. Recent research supports this point. (For those of you worried that upping the minimum wage will decrease employment opportunities, other research refutes this contention.)
2) Does vocal public protest promote worker-friendly changes in public policy? Does public pressure have anything to do with the Seattle City Council’s unanimous vote in favor of paid sick leave? Or Mayor McGinn’s pressure on Whole Foods to pay its workers more?
3) Are recent marches, strikes, boycotts, letter-writing campaigns, and accompanying media coverage diminishing public tolerance for workplace abuses such as unsafe working conditions, wage theft, irregular work schedules, etc.? Does this decreased tolerance put pressure on employers to be more responsive to employee needs?
The fast food strikes are people power at work, people! At a time when unions are disappearing, they are more important than ever.