As fast-food and other low-wage workers are planning for and publicizing what is shaping up to be the broadest national day of action for $15 an hour and a union Nov. 10, they are also defending fellow workers fired in retaliation for building the struggle.
Sandra Roman, who is active in Fight for $15, was fired from her job at a McDonald’s in Oakland, California, Oct. 28, ostensibly for “calling in sick too frequently.” The Service Employees International Union, the East Bay Organizing Committee, co-workers and others mobilized that night at the restaurant. The owner shut down the 24-hour establishment, trying to stop the protest and delay action by city officials.
The City of Oakland is involved because the firing violated a retaliation clause in the city’s new minimum wage ordinance. It raised the city minimum wage from $9 to $12.25 per hour and required employers to provide paid sick leave.
Another protest was held the next day. In a meeting with Roman and SEIU representatives Oct. 30, McDonald’s management reinstated her.
Shonda Roberts joined the Oct. 29 rally to support Roman. Roberts, also active in building the Nov. 10 actions, has reason to feel confident. She was reinstated at a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Oakland Oct. 25 after protests against a similar retaliatory firing.
The bonds between the fight for $15 and protests against police brutality continue to deepen. In Chicago one of the Nov. 10 protests will gather at a McDonald’s a few blocks from the police station where monthly protests have demanded the firing of police officer Dante Servin, who killed 22-year-old African-American Rekia Boyd in 2012. Protesters will march from the restaurant to the police station.
Quinnisha Allen, 21, who works at a South Side McDonald’s, told the Militant there will be strikes and protests at several of the fast-food giant’s outlets around the city, followed by a 4:30 p.m. rally at Thompson Center downtown.
Allen was fired from another McDonald’s last year “for drinking a lemonade while I was waiting for my food during lunch,” she said. “The manager claimed I didn’t pay for the drink. When I went back with four Fight for $15 members, she refused to talk with me and called the police.”
Activities in New York Nov. 10 include an early morning action at a McDonald’s in Brooklyn, a midday rally at the Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building in Harlem and a 4 p.m. demonstration at Foley Square downtown. There will also be protests in Albany, Buffalo, Corning, Newfane, Poughkeepsie and Troy, New York, and in Jersey City, Perth Amboy and Neptune City, New Jersey.
Two vanloads of Fight for $15 Now workers joined airport workers, members of SEIU Local 32BJ, and others at a rally of 100 people at JFK International Airport Oct. 29, a run-up action to Nov. 10. Workers at JetBlue subcontractors Roma and Ultimate Aircraft were protesting low wages, inadequate protective equipment and bedbugs in the vans that take them out to the planes.
‘Nov. 10 is going to be big’“We need $15 and a union now, not in a few years,” Jorel Ware, a McDonald’s worker and Fight for $15 organizer, told the Militant. “We got $15 in New York, but it’s not complete until 2018 in the city and 2021 in the state.” The raise applies to some 200,000 fast-food workers.
“We have Black Lives Matter groups, airport and home care workers and university adjuncts joining us, hundreds of organizations,” Ware said. “Nov. 10 is going to be big.”
There are several hundred workers at the 24-hour McDonald’s near Times Square where he works. “The managers talk down to us, tell us to hurry up, say if we eat a french fry we’ll be fired,” he said. “And I have a burn scar above my eyebrow from opening the apple turnover oven.”
In response to the broadening fight for higher wages, many capitalist spokespeople are waging a countercampaign and revealing their contempt for working people.
An American Enterprise Institute article in May, titled “Warren Buffett Explains — Simply and Clearly — Why a $15 Minimum Wage is Bad for Workers,” quotes the multibillionaire owner of railroads, mines and insurance companies claiming higher wages would “reduce employment.”
“A $15-Hour Minimum Wage Could Harm America’s Poorest Workers,” was the title of a July 30 article in Fortune magazine, warning that unemployment will rise because “employers will be very reluctant to pay high wages to workers whose skills — including the ability to speak English, in the case of many immigrants — are so modest.”
Capitalists denigrate workers as part of obfuscating the fact that their wealth comes solely from the exploitation of wage labor. “Low-wage workers” are workers who haven’t yet won higher wages, not ignorant subhuman creatures who don’t merit enough to live on. The $4.8 billion profit McDonald’s bosses raked in last year came from the value created by the workers who cook and serve the food. Winning pay raises will cut into that profit, not raise prices.
The union-in-becoming of fast-food workers is gaining experience and confidence — and inspiring others.
Tony Lane in New York; Carole Lesnick in Oakland, California; and Alyson Kennedy in Chicago contributed to this article.
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