Unions and Strikes in the Age of Austerity?

Fast Food Workers Strike/ Protest in Chicago

Fast Food Workers Strike/ Protest in Chicago (Photo credit: danxoneil)

Workers’ unions and strikes are arguably the most powerful collective action tool available to laborers.  However, during what has been called the “Glided Age of Austerity”, an age that has seen a huge rise in wealth inequality, unions and strikes seem to be a thing of the past.  Over the past year, that trend seemed to reverse.

This summer, thousands of low-wage workers in retail and fast food went on strike to demand a living wage of $15 per hour.  The Fight for 15 (FF15) campaign went public in November 2012 and grew quickly, culminating in a nationwide one-day strike on August 29th, involving thousands of people in over 60 cities.  Many of these strikers work full-time, earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, and are barely able to make ends meet.  Had the minimum wage kept up with inflation over the past 40 years, it would be $10.74 per hour.

Unfortunately, with many young and poor people looking for work, it seems unlikely that the fast food businesses will raise their workers’ wages without Congressional action.  The movement is still in its infancy and needs many more workers to join in order to be successful, but hopefully it will continue a movement towards collective action and improving the living quality for all in America.

What can you do?

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James McComas

I bring a background in researching and writing to the Campaign Consultation team for my role as Administrative and Project Assistant. Prior to joining Campaign Consultation, I was a research intern for BUS 52, a year-long project which sought out organizations and individuals across the continental United States who worked to positively change their communities in innovative ways. I also assisted a journalist researching climate change issues. Read more.

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