Fight For 15: Fast Food Workers Strike Across the U.S.

Last Thursday, thousands of fast food workers in 100 cities across the U.S. walked off the job to protest low wages, demanding higher wages (the cry “Fight for 15” called for $15/hr wages) and the right to unionize. On Facebook, I quickly saw infographics like this one being posted and shared. In these infographics, supporters of low-wage workers argue that taxpayers are subsidizing fast food companies by: 1) paying for performance-based executive pay through corporate tax breaks, and 2) paying for government food assistance programs for workers who cannot afford to subsist only on the wages the companies pay them, when the better solution would be for the companies to pay workers a living wage. This framing of the issue is interesting in part because it uses arguments typically associated with both the left and the right: the demand for better working conditions, the right to unionize, and fairer wages for workers are arguments associated with the left, while arguments about the need for less burden on “taxpayers” are typically associated with the right.

While most stories focused on this aspect of the day’s actions, an article in Time Magazine moved beyond a focus on the framing of the issue to a discussion of shifting strategies and tactics in the labor movement. The article’s author, Victor Luckerson, argues that “flash strikes”–widespread, one-day strikes designed to draw national attention as opposed to company-specific long-term strikes designed to directly pressure employers–are a growing phenomenon and are the necessary result of declining union membership. This calls to mind the immigrant rights mega-marches on May 1, 2006, called “A Day Without Immigrants” because immigrant marchers were committed to walking off the job to demonstrate the dependence of the U.S. economy on immigrant labor.

What do you think of the term “flash strikes”? What other examples of this phenomenon can you think of? Do you agree with the labor experts cited in the Time article that one-day strikes are a good or even necessary tactic for social change in today’s context?

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