Workers Say the Fight for 15 Isn’t Just About Raises—It’s a Fight for Meaning in Their Lives

BY DAVID MOBERG / IN THESE TIMES

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College students crippled by educational debt and part-time university faculty are joining fast food workers in their latest action on April 15

If Douglas Hunter succeeds with his plans on April 15, the public’s attention this year may be diverted from grumbling about taxes to demanding higher wages for millions of low-income service workers—including many who earn so little at their jobs that they need public subsidies for a minimal standard of living.

Hunter, 53, is a leader nationally and in Chicago of the Fight for $15, an ambitious campaign that New York City fast food workers launched two-and-a-half years ago. But other cities picked up the call, then other occupations, from retail workers and childcare providers to adjunct professors. It has caught the imagination of the public as well and notched some notable victories, such as a $15 minimum wage in Seattle and Seatac in Washington state, as well as in San Francisco.

“We can’t wait. Jewel isn’t waiting. People’s Gas isn’t waiting,” he says, referencing a Chicago grocery chain and natural gas utility, respectively. “We need higher wages to support our families. Many people thought we were crazy two years ago when we walked off our jobs in New York and demanded $15 an hour. They don’t think we’re crazy now.”

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Anti-zero hours strike in Ireland

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By Michael Taft - Irish Left Review

This Thursday, April 2nd, workers in Dunnes Stores throughout the country are coming out on a one-day strike.  In essence, the dispute boils down to two urgent issues.

The first is zero/low hour contracts.  Such contracts require employees to be available for work but do not guarantee hours of work.  Therefore, workers cannot be assured of their income from one week to the next.  And because hours and shifts change, workers cannot plan childcare, eldercare, family time or leisure.

The Dunnes Stores Workers are seeking what is called ‘banded hours’.  This means people are rostered in such a manner that they are guaranteed a minimum and maximum number of working hours and, so, income.

 

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McDonald's Is Raising Wages For Some US Workers

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US workers have been fighting for $15 and a union at McDonald's and other fast food companies. 

McDonald's is finally giving some of its workers a raise.

The fast-food giant on Wednesday announced plans to give employees a 10-percent pay bump and some extra benefits.

The raise will affect about 90,000 workers at a small fraction of McDonald’s stores. Employees at franchises, which make up the majority of the burger chain's locations, won't be affected.

The increase will lift the average hourly wage at McDonald’s to $9.90, and to more than $10 by the end of next year. The rate currently sits at $9.01, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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Movement to Increase McDonald's Minimum Wage in US Broadens Its Tactics

While the fast-food movement may not be close to persuading McDonald’s to adopt a $15 minimum wage, even the campaign’s critics acknowledge it has achieved some of its goals by prompting a national debate about low-wage work and nudging various cities and states to raise their minimum wage.

By Steven Greenhouse
The New York Times

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Click on photo for a NYT video report on the labour movement's $15 an hour wage strategy

ATLANTA - On a recent Friday, Kwanza Brooks, a $7.25-an-hour McDonald's worker, climbed into a 14-person van to take a four-hour ride from Charlotte, N.C., to Atlanta.

As she and other workers headed south, Ms. Brooks, a short, fiery woman, swapped stories with her companions about unsafe conditions and unfair managers. Upon arriving, they joined more than 400 other people - including home care aides, Walmart workers, child care workers and adjunct professors - at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been a pastor.

The gathering on March 21 was in part a strategy session to plan for the fast-food movement's next big wave of protests, which is now scheduled for April 15. But the meeting was also seeking to be something far more ambitious. Through some strategic alchemy, the organizers hoped the gathering would turn the fast-food workers' fight for a $15 hourly wage into a broad national movement of all low-wage workers that combined the spirit of Depression-era labor organizing with the uplifting power of Dr. King's civil rights campaign.

 

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“Another World is Possible” essay competition 2015

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Workers protesting the death of Fred Evans, the miner who was shot in a Waihi union hall in 1912 by a gang of drunken cops and scabs

For the second time, the Labour History Project is running an essay competition to inspire debate on alternative futures.

In December 2014, an OECD report ranked New Zealand as the most deeply affected by growing income inequality out of all developed countries. It makes the case that we are all affected by growing income inequality, not just those in the lowest tenth of households in New Zealand. In this context, the Labour History Project invites progressive New Zealanders of all ages to offer visions and strategies that would enable a future world where inequality is eradicated.

Rules of the Competition

By entering this competition you agree to accept and be bound by the following terms and conditions, and acknowledge that failure to comply with them may result in disqualification.

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Fast food companies under the gun over zero hours

Zero_hours_equal.JPGNegotiations with all the major fast food companies on renewing their collective employment agreements with Unite Union were held over the first week of March.

The workers in the industry have told Unite that their priority is the ending of the regime of “zero hour contracts”. This is the situation where workers must be “available” for work when rostered but not guaranteed any hours from week to week.

There has been huge public support for the campaign against zero hour contracts and Campbell Live has adopted the issue as a cause they will be championing.

The week before collective agreement negotiations began Campbell Live ran their first report.
Campbell Live: Zero hour contracts leave kiwi families struggling

Campbell Live: Zero hour contracts leave kiwi families struggling

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Economy growing – but who’s getting it?

CTU economist Bill Rosenberg

Council of Trade Unions media release:

“Who’s benefiting from the growth in the economy? This is an important question after another three months of GDP statistics showing economic growth getting closer to the levels in the 2000s before the Global Financial Crisis,” says CTU Economist Bill Rosenberg.

 

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McDonald's workers detail burns, job hazards

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In this Dec. 4, 2014 file photo, people protest for higher wages outside a McDonald's restaurant in the Little Havana area of Miami. McDonald’s workers in 19 cities have filed complaints over burns from hot grills and fryers and other workplace hazards, according to labor organizers. The complaints are the latest move in an ongoing campaign to win pay of $15 an hour and unionization for fast-food workers, in part by publicly pressuring McDonald’s to come to the bargaining table.

NEW YORK (AP) " McDonald's workers in 19 cities have filed complaints over burns from popping grease, a lack of protective equipment and other workplace hazards, according to labor organizers.

The complaints are the latest move in an ongoing campaign to win pay of $15 an hour and unionization for fast-food workers by publicly pressuring McDonald's to come to the bargaining table. The push is being spearheaded by the Service Employees International Union and began more than two years ago. Already, it has included protests around the country and lawsuits alleging workers weren't given their rightful pay.

The burns and other hazards were detailed in complaints announced Monday and filed with U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration in recent weeks. Workers cite a persistent lack of gloves for handling hot equipment and say they've been burned while cleaning grills that have to be kept on. One worker says he was told by a manager to, "put mayonnaise on it, you'll be good."

The complaints also detail a lack of training for handling hot fryers and slipping on wet floors.

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Inequality is not ‘flat to falling’, Minister

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CTU Media Release:

Assertions by the Finance Minister about inequality are not borne out by the facts, the CTU said today.

Bill English told TVNZ’s Q+A programme on Sunday that inequality in New Zealand is ‘flat to falling’.

Yet an analysis by the CTU on the incomes of those at the very highest shows that rather than falling, it is skyrocketing.  Income data recently released by Inland Revenue shows that in the two years to March 2013 (the latest available data) shows a sharp rise in inequality due to rapid rises in high incomes.“ The average income of the top 1% has risen steeply since 2011,” said CTU Secretary Sam Huggard.

“For this group, the average income rose from $298,000 in the year to March 2011 to $382,000 in the year to March 2013.”

“This is an increase from 8.5 times the average income to 9.7 times.”

“The average income of the top 0.1% is estimated to have risen from $665,000 to $892,000 over the same period, from 19 times the average income to 23 times.”

“How this can be described as ‘flat or falling’ beggars belief.”

“Unions will continue to push for a more equal society and lifting wages is the single most effective way to achieve this.”

“Across the country workers will be making their case for a decent payrise this year. They are due for a catch-up after several years of low increases which were below what the economy can afford.  That is especially true for workers such as those in health care whose pay went up by only 0.7% on average in the last year,” Huggard said.

 

'You sign it because you're hard up'

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Gabriel Griffin signed a contract at the new Wendy's outlet in Dunedin that does not guarantee weekly working hours.

(Published on Otago Daily Times Online News

Unions are fighting them, employers say they do not exist. Carla Green reports on zero-hour contracts. 

When Gabriel Griffin signed his work contract with the new Wendy's outlet in South Dunedin, he knew what he was signing.
''I signed it because I wanted the money, and that's why everyone else signed it as well. You sign it because you're hard up, that's it,'' he said.

But that does not mean he is happy about it.

Mr Griffin, a 20-year-old who lives in Port Chalmers, is one of thousands of workers throughout New Zealand employed under what are called ''zero-hour'' contracts - agreements that do not guarantee the worker a set number of hours a week (or any hours at all, necessarily), but usually make it difficult or impossible for workers to seek alternative employment.

The contracts first came into widespread use in the United Kingdom following the global financial crisis in 2008.

Since then, they have become common in New Zealand, especially in the fast-food industry.

Critics generally identify several key issues with the agreements: they do not allow workers to plan financially (because they do not know how many hours they will be rostered on each week); they result in many of an establishment's workers being underemployed when they want to work full-time; and businesses require workers to be on call.

According to the Unite union's South Island organiser, Ben Peterson, Wendy's is just one of several fast-food establishments that use zero-hour contracts.

''It's not that Wendy's is worse than the others,'' he said.

The union is in the process of negotiating with Wendy's on a variety of issues, including zero-hour contracts.

''For the most part, there's been no movement around providing better hours and better protection to those hours,'' Mr Peterson said.

 

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