Fast-food workers in 300 US cities striking on Labor Day

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LOCAL Miami cooks and cashiers from McDonald’s, Burger King and other restaurants announced they are walking off the job on America’s Labor Day, today, joining strikes by fast-food workers in 300 cities from coast to coast.

Miami workers in the Fight for $15 stressed their demand not just for $15 an hour, but for union rights in order to fix the economic and political systems in the US that are rigged to benefit big corporations over working people.

The strike will begin at 6am tomorrow at McDonalds, 1604 Alton Rd, Miami Beach with workers carrying signs that read, ‘Miami Needs Unions’ and ‘$15 AND Union Rights’. The Miami announcement came as the Fight for $15 and the Service Employees International Union join forces ahead of the 2018 election on a massive voter engagement drive aimed at unseating anti-worker politicians and electing leaders who support a $15 an hour minimum wage and union rights.

Alongside the voter engagement initiative, dietary aides, nurses’ assistants, transporters and others who work in America’s hospitals are joining the Fight for $15, giving the movement a political push in what have become the factories of today’s economy.

Last week, Duke University and Duke University Health System announced they are raising pay to $15 for 2,300 employees. In June, Minneapolis became the first Midwestern city to adopt a $15 an hour minimum wage, raising pay for an estimated 71,000 workers.

Mayors in Cleveland and Atlanta this summer announced plans to raise pay for all city employees to $15 an hour. And in August, Democrats made $15 an hour a central piece of their ‘Better Deal’ plan, while voters in Kansas City, Missouri, approved a ballot measure by a more than 2-1 margin raising the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

In May, fast-food cooks and cashiers in New York City who won a landmark $15 an hour minimum wage in 2015 secured the passage of new laws curbing abusive scheduling practices at companies like McDonald’s and paving the way for fast-food workers to join together in their own organisation.

The organisation legislation – the first of its kind – will allow workers to continue their fight for higher wages, benefits and stronger communities, and could serve as a model for fast-food workers in other cities across the country. Since launching on November, 29, 2012, the Fight for $15 has spurred wage hikes totalling more than $62 billion for 22 million underpaid workers, including more than ten million who are on their way to $15 an hour, by convincing everyone from voters to politicians to corporations to raise pay.

Workers have taken what many viewed as an outlandish proposition – $15 an hour – and made it the new labour standard in New York, California, Seattle, Washington, D.C. and Minneapolis. Home care workers in Massachusetts and Oregon won $15 an hour statewide minimum wages and companies including Facebook, Aetna, Amalgamated Bank, JP Morgan Chase and Nationwide Insurance have raised pay to $15 an hour or higher.

Workers have been angered on the eve of Labor Day by the latest anti-union measure by the Trump administration. It has frozen the implementation of an Obama-era rule designed to ensure equal pay for women — a move that was backed by first daughter/presidential adviser Ivanka Trump, who has put women’s equality issues at the forefront of her public platform.

The federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) sent a memo last Tuesday to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, (EEOC) announcing that it was going to halt implementing regulations incorporated by the Obama administration in September 2016. Those rules would have required employers to collect information on how much they pay employees, broken down by gender, race and ethnicity.

The OMB expressed concerns in the memo that following through on those rules would violate employee privacy. Ivanka Trump issued a statement Tuesday backing the move. She said: ‘Ultimately, while I believe the intention was good and agree that pay transparency is important, the proposed policy would not yield the intended results.

‘We look forward to continuing to work with EEOC, OMB, Congress and all relevant stakeholders on robust policies aimed at eliminating the gender wage gap.’ Feminist groups criticised the decision. ‘For somebody who has long held herself out as a champion for women and for gender equality, it’s really disappointing,’ Vicki Shabo of the National Partnership for Women and Families said.

‘This spits in the eye of gender equality and in the eyes of women and people of colour who are so often paid less and do not know.’ The following statement was issued on Friday by United Steelworkers (USW) International President Leo W. Gerard following a Gallup poll showing that labour unions have an approval rating of 61%, the highest since 2003.

Gerard said: ‘The resurgence of labour union popularity is good news. ‘With a Gallup Poll showing the approval rate for organised labour at 61%, unions are much more popular than Congress. This may be because unions get things done. They increase wages for all workers – union and non-union alike. They work to create safer workplaces.

‘They’ve campaigned against efforts to suppress voting. And union members in Texas, including members of the United Steelworkers, are actively rescuing flood victims and raising money for restoration of impacted communities.

‘It is gratifying to see that the popularity of unions has risen 13 points since 2009, particularly when wealthy, right-wing groups like ALEC and the State Policy Network are working every day to crush unions. The USW, the AFL-CIO and all of its member unions will continue working to end income inequality and improve the lives of all workers by ensuring they receive a fair share of the bounty created by their labour.’

The USW represents 850,000 workers in North America employed in many industries that include metals, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil refining and the service and public sectors. Right-wing activists across the US have launched a nationwide campaign to undermine ‘left’ politicians by depriving them of a major source of support and funding – public sector unions.

The new assault is being spearheaded by the State Policy Network (SPN), an alliance of 66 state-based thinktanks, or ‘ideas factories’ as it calls them, with a combined annual budget of $80m. In a ten-page fundraising letter, SPN president and CEO Tracie Sharp says the $8m ‘breakthrough’ campaign is a ‘once-in-a-lifetime chance to reverse the failed policies of the American left . . . We are primed, right now, to deliver the mortal blow to permanently break its stranglehold on our society.’

Sharp adds: ‘Big government unions are the biggest sources of funding and political muscle for the left – and a major obstacle to the ability of voters to reclaim control of American government. To win the battle for freedom, we must take the fight to the unions, state by state.’

She claims: ‘I’m talking about permanently depriving the left from access to millions of dollars in dues extracted from unwilling union members every election cycle.’ Meanwhile, a new Labor Day report unveiled by the AFL-CIO shows that working people are working more and taking fewer vacation days. While 78% of workers say they have the day off on Labor Day, more than a quarter of those people expect to do some work, and more than half of those working will not receive overtime benefits.

More than half of Americans surveyed said they were working more holidays and weekends than ever, and 43% said they brought work home at least one night a week. Union members are more likely to receive Labor Day off and overtime pay compared with their non-union counterparts. Sixty-six percent of union members receive overtime pay on Labor Day, compared with 38% of non-union members. Women, often the primary caregivers in their families, are less likely than men to report access to paid time off – 68% versus 74%.

The majority of American workers credit labour unions for many of the benefits they receive. ‘Union workers empowered by the freedom to negotiate with employers do better on every single economic benchmark,’ said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. ‘Union workers earn substantially more money, union contracts help achieve equal pay and protection from discrimination, union workplaces are safer, and union workers have better access to health care and a pension.’

Additionally, 72% of those surveyed said they thought unions were either very or somewhat responsible for working people having paid time off on Labor Day and other holidays. Fifty-four per cent of workers would join a union tomorrow if given the option. This includes 41% of Republicans surveyed. Respondents also expressed major concern that weakening unions could hurt workers’ benefits in the future. Americans overwhelmingly report wanting to spend their Labor Day off with their families and friends.