|The News Line: Editorial
Wednesday, 4 December 2013
Millions of low paid US workers are on the march!
FOLLOWING the Black Friday strike action at 1,500 WalMart stores throughout the US, fast-food workers in over 100 cities will walk off the job tomorrow, to mark another huge push for higher pay and a minimum wage, currently at $7.25 an hour, to be raised to $15 an hour.
$7.25 an hour for a full-time employee is well below the current minimum wage of £6.31 for an adult in the UK!
The mass protests are part of a new movement of previously unorganised millions, now looking to new trade unions and a ‘new politics’ to satisfy their and their families’ needs.
Last month, President Barack Obama said he would back a Senate measure to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. This is treated with scorn by the super-exploited store, restaurant and fast-food workers who are demanding $15 an hour as their minimum.
The National Restaurant Association, an industry lobbying group, has already labelled the mass strikes and demonstrations as a ‘campaign engineered by national labour groups’.
A new organisation ‘Fast Food Forward’ has said demonstrations are planned tomorrow for 100 cities, in addition to the 100 cities where workers will strike.
There is now a general understanding that they’re not going to win from a one-day strike, and that sustained strikes, demonstrations and mass political actions are required.
Organisers are now at work in companies including McDonald’s Corp., Burger King Worldwide Inc., and Yum Brands Inc. which owns KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.
The Service Employees International Union, which represents more than two million workers in health care, janitorial and other industries, has been providing organisational and financial support to the push for higher pay over the past year and reports that large numbers of unorganised workers are now joining the union.
Meanwhile, US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has promised a vote on a minimum wage hike by the end of the year. However, the measure is not expected to gain majority support in the House, where Republican leaders and right-wing Democrats oppose it.
The movement is now growing fast on the back of its successes. Last month, voters in New Jersey approved a hike in the minimum wage to $8.25 an hour, up from $7.25 an hour. California, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island also raised their minimum wages this year.
SEIU President Mary Kay Henry said she thinks the protests have helped encourage more states and localities to raise their minimum wage in 2013. She expects the number of cities and participants in the protests to grow next year as the union keeps the pressure on fast-food companies.
‘I think we’ve totally changed the conversation about what these jobs are worth,’ Henry said. ‘These are no longer jobs being done by teenagers who need extra money. These are jobs being done by adults that can’t find any other work.’
Meanwhile, a study that was released by congressional Democrats looking at Wisconsin estimated that WalMart workers at one store used nearly a million dollars in public assistance. It is clear that the largest employer, which is owned by the wealthiest family, is a company whose employees, in tremendous numbers, depend on the US’ very stingy poverty programmes.
On Thursday there are going to be strikes in a hundred cities and protests in many more.
The nature of fast-food work increasingly is the nature of work in the United States – precarious, under constant surveillance, involving rebellious labour on poverty wages. They are going out on strike not against one company, but against all the big companies in the industry, and beginning in one city and aiming to spread it to a hundred cities to win their demand for $15 an hour minimum rate.
This mass movement of millions of low paid workers, many with very young families, is, in essence, a revolutionary movement that with revolutionary leadership will change the leaderships of the US trade unions and lead the American socialist revolution.
Now is the time to build a section of the International Committee of the Fourth International in the US.
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