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

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

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


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


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'

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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Helen Kelly: Zero hour exploitation

Fast food workers rally against zero hour contracts outside Grey Lynn McDonald's, February 14, 2015

The wellbeing of families is threatened when workers feel insecure, writes CTU president Helen Kelly

We have seen such public concern about the types of arrangements being used to exploit Kiwi workers lately.

Deductions from wages for runners at petrol stations and restaurants; zero hour contracts; breaches of minimum wage laws on farms and in hospitality; serious recurring accidents in industries such as forestry and farming; severe exploitation of our migrant workforce; and below living wages in important industries like aged care.

Is this the new normal?

All of these issues – hours, wages, deductions, and safety – would be regulated by collective bargaining, as they are in countries which recognise the importance of work to society and families. In countries such as Denmark – with high productivity and wages – collective bargaining is the mechanism that brings parties together to regulate labour practices, ensuring all sides to the bargain get a fair benefit.

This country has one of the most deregulated labour markets in the OECD and has some of the lowest collective bargaining coverage. The results are that competition between businesses can be won by exploiting the labour force, at a huge cost to us all. It seems likely this will only continue.


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Woodhouse aims to improve zero-hour contracts


Most adult New Zealanders will work a 30-odd hour this week, and tomorrow, will do some more.

But for workers on zero-hour contracts, they may have worked, well, nothing.

Not out of choice, but because their employer is not obligated to give them any work - even though their staff are on permanent contracts.

Last time we talked to Workplace Relations Minister Michael Woodhouse, he told us anyone not happy on a zero hour contract should look at getting a new job.

Campbell Live and many of our viewers don't think it's that easy.

We're not sure the Minister understands just what it's like to live week to week on a zero-hours contract.
Campbell Live reporter Anna Burns-Francis went to Wellington with SkyCity worker Anthony Kavana, to see what the Minister had to say.

"I have sent my officials away so that they can advise me on what we can do to improve the Employment Relations Legislation to remove some parts of the zero-hour contracts that have come to our attention," says Mr Woodhouse.

He wants parts removed like the mutual obligation, where there is an expectation from the employee to be available for work, but no commitment from the employer.

Solidarity needed with Venezuela

Mike Treen on platform of May Day rally in Caracas, Venezuela, in 2006

By Mike Treen, National Director, Unite Union

(Reprinted from The Daily Blog)

The international labour movement together with all supporters of peace and social justice around the globe need to mobilise in solidarity with government and people of Venezuela.

The declaration by the President of the United States that Venezuela is an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States” can seem simply absurd on the face of it but it constitutes the first step towards open warfare and “regime change” as official policy.

Just such a declaration by US President Reagan in 1985 set the stage for the imposition of economic sanctions – including an economic embargo – to remove an elected government. The sanctions were followed by funding for a terrorist paramilitary war that combined with the embargo destroyed the economy and led to the electoral defeat of the governing Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) in 1990. The FSLN returned to power in 2007 and have increased their support to record levels.

The threat posed by Venezuela is the threat of a good example. The process known as the “Bolivarian Revolution” began with the election of Hugo Chavez as President in 1998. Until his death from cancer in March 2013 he led a mass process to redistribute wealth, radically increase access to health care and education, expand popular power, and challenge US domination and exploitation in the region.

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