FOLLOWING her arrest last Wednesday at the McDonald’s shareholders’ meeting outside of Chicago, Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), issued the following statement:
‘Earlier today, I was arrested outside of McDonald’s world headquarters alongside more than 100 McDonald’s workers from across the country because we engaged in a peaceful, nonviolent act of civil disobedience.
‘I was arrested because I want McDonald’s workers to know that 2.1 million members of SEIU – home care workers, child care workers, adjunct professors, security officers, hospital workers and many others – proudly stand with them.
‘We came to McDonald’s world headquarters because this is where the real decisions are made. It’s time for the McDonald’s corporation to stop hiding behind its franchisees and to stop pretending that it can’t boost pay for the people who make and serve their food.
‘It’s time for this company to stop systematically stealing its employees’ wages. McDonald’s is the world’s second largest private sector employer. It is extraordinarily profitable. It has an obligation to pay the people who run its stores enough to afford their basic needs.
‘Members from across our union tell me over and over that they fully support fast food workers’ call for a $15 wage floor and their right to form a union without retaliation. When these workers win, they will boost their families’ purchasing power and that will strengthen the economy for all of us.
‘They will show that workers can stick together and fight to make sure they are paid a fair share of the profits they create.’
The SEIU unites 2.1 million diverse members in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. SEIU members working in the healthcare industry, public sector and in property services believe in the power of joining together on the job to win higher wages, benefits and create better communities, while fighting for a more just society and an economy that works for all of us, not just corporations and the wealthy.
• The Teamsters union said last Friday: ‘The woes of the American worker are well known to Teamsters reading here.
‘Middle-class jobs are fading away, replaced by low-income work that makes it more and more difficult for families to support themselves. Now a new report shows those challenges are even larger for those who live along the East and West coasts.
‘HSH.com, a mortgage website, found the top eight most expensive cities to buy a home in are along both coasts, led by San Francisco, where buyers need to earn a salary of at least $137,000 a year to afford a home.
‘The City by the Bay is followed by San Diego, New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Washington, D.C., Seattle and Portland, Ore. as being the most expensive places to purchase a place to live. The result? America’s most economically prosperous cities are being stripped of their middle class, leaving those places with just the very rich and very poor.
‘The average worker is being shown the door in these municipalities, forcing families who may have lived there for generations to uproot if they want to continue to survive. The latest US Census Bureau data shows that overall larger cities remain more unequal places by income than the rest of the country.
‘Among the top 50 cities, the top five per cent make 10.8 times as much as the bottom 20 per cent, compared to 9.1 times as much nationwide. That is not what the US is all about. Or at least, it shouldn’t be. But this country is increasingly becoming divided.
‘Income inequality is taking hold, and the result is there is a massive salary gulf in San Francisco, for example, that resembles Rwanda. Its middle class, once 45 per cent of the city’s population in 1990, fell to 34 per cent in 2012.
‘Elected officials need to find a way to overcome these increasingly alarming statistics. The good news is there are solutions. First is to invest in infrastructure such as better roads, transportation and broadband networks to grow local economies.
‘The second, and even more important, is to push for more union jobs. Why? Because union jobs pay better and allow hard-working Americans to earn a fair wage with which they can support a family, and maybe even buy a home where they want to live.
‘US cities should be home to workers of all stripes. That is what made them vibrant in the past and that is what will make them succeed in the future. Now all we need is lawmakers to figure it out too.’
• Longshoremen’s union ILWU revealed last Friday that a solidarity delegation of members from ILWU Locals 10 and 13 joined the ILWU Longshore Locals from the Pacific Northwest in Portland and Vancouver, WA on the weekend of May 3rd to walk the picket line with locked-out members of Locals 4 and 8 who are in a protracted struggle to get a contract with the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers’ Association (PNGHA).
A delegation of ILWU members from Hawaii Longshore visited the lock-out lines a few weeks before and Locals 94 and 63 have also been sending delegations to stand with their locked-out brothers and sisters on the picket lines.
‘It’s been really energizing for us to have these solidarity visits from our brothers and sisters in the ILWU. It shows us that our struggle here has not been forgotten and that we are not alone,’ said Cager Clabough, President of Local 4.
ILWU members have maintained strong, round-the-clock picket lines since Japanese-owned Mitsui/United Grain Corporation (UGC) locked-out members of ILWU Local 4 in Vancouver in February 2013 and Japanese-owned Marubeni/Columbia Grain (CGI) locked-out ILWU Local 8 members in Portland in May of 2013.
‘It’s important for rank-file-members to see firsthand what is happening to our brothers and sisters in the Northwest. They are bringing their stories back to the local to help everyone understand that the ILWU is under attack from the North to the South,’ said Local 13 President Bobby Olvera, Jr., who was a part of the Local 13 delegation to the Northwest. He added that a solidarity delegation of rank-and-file Local 13 members will be visiting the Portland and Vancouver every two weeks.
• The Culinary and Bartenders Unions have called for a strike against nine casinos in Las Vegas Downtown starting on June 1, 2014. The strike will last until a fair contract settlement is reached.
At 5am on June 1, restaurant workers, hotel housekeepers, cocktail servers, bartenders, and other members of the unions will walk off their jobs and start 24/7 picketing of The D, Four Queens, Binion’s, Fremont, Main Street Station, Plaza, Las Vegas Club, El Cortez, and Golden Gate.
‘For nearly 80 years, our unions have made casino jobs good jobs in Las Vegas,’ said Geoconda Arguello-Kline, leader of the Culinary Union.
‘Our members Downtown deserve to earn a decent living by working hard under a fair contract. They should not be left behind as hundreds of millions of new investments pour in for Downtown revitalisation.’
‘I will strike for the opportunity to provide for my family,’ said Ron Gladstone, a cook at The D Hotel and Casino. ‘My co-workers and I will strike to make sure that these jobs continue to be good jobs with affordable benefits, fair wages, and job security.’
‘We are the people who clean the rooms, cook the food, serve the drinks, and provide the quality service that has made the tourism industry flourish in Las Vegas,’ said Patricia Montes, a housekeeper at the Four Queens. We are the backbone of Downtown Las Vegas and we ask that the community support us by not crossing strike lines.’
Union members from all nine unsettled properties have been picketing in Downtown Las Vegas after contracts were terminated. They have also been signing up for strike benefits and strike picket shifts since the strike authorisation vote on March 27.
Culinary Workers Local 226 and Bartenders Local 165, Nevada affiliates of UNITE HERE, represent over 55,000 workers in Las Vegas and Reno, including at most of casino resorts on the Las Vegas Strip and in Downtown Las Vegas.
UNITE HERE represents 270,000 hospitality workers in gaming, hotel, and food service industries in North America.