Town Square

Striking Fast Food Workers: "Power concedes nothing without a demand"

Original post made by Mike Cherry on Aug 29, 2013

Wow! Get a load of this, everybody. And let's thank these folks for speaking truth to power in order to improve their own lives and the lives of so many others.

I refer to the biggest fast food strike yet—a title that's been set and eclipsed repeatedly in the past year—which is sweeping across the country today, with workers in 60 cities reported by organizers to have walked out of their fast food (and, in some cases, retail) jobs. The workers are calling for a living wage of $15 an hour and for the right to form a union without intimidation or retaliation in the form of reduced hours, inconvenient job assignments, and the loss of a job (firings).

In every strike, workers cite a simple fact: They cannot live on the $7.25 or $8 they are paid, especially with unpredictable part-time schedules that make their paychecks vary wildly from week to week, especially when they have children to care for or tuition to pay. But they also have stories of gratuitous mistreatment, from being forced to work off the clock to insults to injuries on the job without proper care.

Workers are striking in Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Denver, Peoria, St. Louis, and dozens of other cities. In Chicago, Trish Kahle writes:

I'm striking as a step forward. I'm striking because power concedes nothing without a demand. I'm striking because I have a dream. I'm striking because another world is not only possible, but worth fighting for. I'm striking because the only way to see a different future is to stand up, and gaze over the walls of what people say can't be done. I believe we can win, and that as we stand here, on the shoulders of giants and masses, we can see a better world in embryo, nestled among a hundred workers wearing red shirts and singing, "Power to the union, power to the workers!"

Speaking of dreams, and to those who say that $15 an hour is too much to ask for: One of the demands of the 1963 March on Washington was a $2 minimum wage. In today's dollars, that's as much as $15.27 (or as "little" as $13.39). These workers are paying rent, supporting families, trying to get by and make lives for themselves, and in this system now and on the wages it allows hugely profitable corporations to pay, it is simply impossible.


Posted by Union troll, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2013 at 8:29 pm

Lol, truth to power.....that's good stuff there, mike. You go ge the man...male sure no ones able to gain an entry level position ever again. While you're at it, explain how fast food work is now considered a 'career'. Boy, you can't make this stuff up....

Posted by JTR, a resident of Birdland
on Aug 29, 2013 at 9:18 pm

If you want a living wage, get a real job/career. Fast food restaurants are a training ground on job responsibility. If wages go up, expect those jobs to be automated, a loss of entry level jobs.

Posted by Camillo, a resident of Valley Trails
on Aug 29, 2013 at 9:29 pm

The average food workers age is 28 yrs old dude. Maybe 40 years ago they were a training ground, but not now. People are supporting there families with there fast food wages. Theyre going to automate any way. Lets talk about right now and giving people a wage to live on. What you got against fast food servers dude. Sounds like you don't want them making a living. That's sick dude.

Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2013 at 9:41 pm

I confess that I don't understand the argument here. On one hand you have workers that are pressing for higher wages. On the other hand, those same workers are in the least expensive food establishments in the nation. And in the middle, you have the American consumer, who is demanding low-priced, convenient, fast food. It's the consumer that is driving the cost of the items, and therefore the amount of wages that can be paid.

Are the workers trying to raise the price of the product they're preparing, and thus put themselves and the firms they work for out of business? Doesn't appear that they have thought this one through.

Posted by Dooood!, a resident of Downtown
on Aug 30, 2013 at 7:16 am

Camillo, dude, you got this figured out, man. But what do you think they should make? $50,000 a year won't allow you to buy a house in the Bay Area. I'm thinking they should be making close to $100,000 in order to support there families. Hey, wait a minute dude, do you think a 16 year old will get hired for that kind of money when they could hire someone with experience?? Oh, nice try, but it appears the mean people might be correct. Well, whatever dude, can you super size that for me?

Posted by union troll, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2013 at 9:17 am

These poor, unskilled workers shouldn't have to learn skills in a higher paying trade or educate themselves to obtain a career that pays what they think they deserve. No, they should have th govt dictate what they can do and for how much. Further, the govt must put price controls in place so businesses can't pass the cost on to consumers. And then, we should give them all food stamps, welfare and obamaphones, along with plat panel TV's, new cars and all the free healthcare they can use to overcome their bad habits. What a country! Let's bring the whole family from the old country....

Posted by JTR, a resident of Birdland
on Aug 30, 2013 at 9:49 am

These jobs are absolutely skill-less. If you want to support a family you should get a skill. People are not entitled to earn a specific living. You need to work on it. I guess we are living in the entitlement-generation. I was taught by my parents that if you do not want to flip burgers all your live and make almost nothing, you need to educate yourself and get some marketable skills. Looks like there are some out there now that think flipping burgers is a career and a skill. Go to a junior college or a trade school, or even educate yourself online. You have to make the initiative. It is not the responsibility of others.

Posted by Camillo, a resident of Valley Trails
on Aug 30, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Theres some real messed up people here. Plenty of fast food workers have college degrees. Do you? your ever worked before Dude? Fast food people make the food. we cook it. we serve it to customer's. Who says we have to make minimum wage when we do all the work? We want whats do to us dude. but you know what dude? You can cry all you want. You can make up your phoney lies. You don't pay my wages. You don't count.

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Aug 30, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Actually, anyone who buys fast food is paying the wages of those employees. There is a correlation between what your responsibilities/skills are and what you can earn. Fast food is not rocket science. I'd have to see data that indicates $15 is a fair wage for what is being done. But I will agree with others who have said flipping burgers is not something you choose as a career, unless it is part of a program where you advance into supervising and management.

Posted by union troll, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2013 at 1:12 pm

camillo/mikie---if you want what is due to you, it is the minimum wage and nothing more. You want more, get a better job, maybe with your excellent writing skills. You are right, I won't pay your wages, since I'm not buying fast food any longer. Or, you can keep flipping burgers instead of flipping the bird blaiming everyone else for your lack of success.

Posted by Jackson, a resident of Downtown
on Aug 30, 2013 at 5:33 pm

the real economic wage of a fast food employee is less the current minimum wage. the learning curve for any position there is approximately 3 hours and that's being generous.

Posted by JTR, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2013 at 5:51 pm

If your qualification is flipping burgers and you want to get paid a lot more, wait for the BART strike and apply to be trained as a train operator. That is probably an easier job than flipping burgers anyway.

Posted by Camillo, a resident of Valley Trails
on Aug 30, 2013 at 7:38 pm

I worked two split shifts today. 12 hours. On my feet. You people cant do that. do any of you speak 3 languages/ My boss decides how much to pay me you don't dude. He can pay me 10 an hour or 15 an hour. That's his decision. You people are seriously messed up. Who says thare's a correlation between wages and skill? No info will change you're thinking because your twisted and evil. You had bad parents. seriously. What is wrong with you/?

Posted by Mike Cherry, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2013 at 8:25 pm

Somebody, somewhere along the line, Camillo, seriously missed the boat with these folks. Likely parenting. You're right. They are messed up. Welcome to the PW clown club where people with bartending and secretarial 'skills' think they deserve to make more than you ... because they were fortunate enough to enjoy some higher education which they then turn upon those who haven't been afforded that advantage. Rousseau called this one of the vilest of human traits. Yes, they are among the vile ones.

Let me quote myself: "One of the demands of the 1963 March on Washington was a $2 minimum wage. In today's dollars, that's as much as $15.27 (or as "little" as $13.39). These workers are paying rent, supporting families, trying to get by and make lives for themselves, and in this system now and on the wages it allows hugely profitable corporations to pay, it is simply impossible."

Let's start with Kath R. "Actually" she begins... and then proceeds to ladle up a bucket of ideological, nonsensical slop. Fast food workers (16 year-olds) were making minimum wage of less than 2.00 back in the sixties. Why haven't workers' wages increased with the times? Kath R of the clown club wants you to believe it's because of the consumer. She claims SHE pays your wage, Camillo. That qualifies as the dumbest thing said on these posts for quite some time.

Workers continue to get 2.00 an hour whether owners make 90 times or 900 times the profit on those unhealthy burgers. What Kath doesn't admit (and won't, because she hates you) is that 2.00 per hour only becomes 10.00 per hour if workers agitate for the higher wage. As one fast food worker so eloquently put it: "Power concedes nothing without a demand."

Oh, the companies will automate -- what? assuming they won't if they don't have the chance already? Mobilized, organized workers are not behind increased automation: the quest for profit is behind it, and usually at the expense of exploited workers.

Oh, raise the minimum wage and the price of a 3/4-pounder will automatically go up. Not so. It is owners/managers' choice whether they can live within existing profit margins. Fact is, over the years, owners have found that fast food is an extraordinarily profitable enterprise. It can be more profitable, or less profitable, depending on how greedy are the owners. The ignorant ones will insist that higher burger prices are the result of workers' wages; they'll never admit the reality that those higher prices are inextricably bound up with profits, profits, profits, and workers can go take a hike.

Camillo, I applaud your determination to better your life through organization with your fellow workers. Your skill level with three languages I'm sure triples what these pompous, vile, haters can claim for themselves. And I believe you when you say most of the posters here couldn't do what you do, as you do it, day in and day out. Secretaries, bartenders, what a joke they are. The educated ones! You have over them in so many ways, Camillo. All best to you and yours.

Viva America's Fast-Food Workers! Viva Freedom for America's Laborers! Viva Economic Justice For All!

Posted by Union troll, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2013 at 8:45 pm

This is very entertaining, watching you two morons pontificate about what great contributions you are making to society and how the rest of us that pay your way are 'messed up'. Obama is handing our free money for college for linguistically limited knuckle draggers such as you two. I suggest you take him up on his generosity with money from contributors such as taxpayers like me. No need to thank me.....he confiscated the funds.

Posted by Mike Cherry, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2013 at 9:12 pm

And that, ladies and gentleman, is about the best these clowns have to offer. Nice contribution, Troll.

The Troll seems to think working your butt off twelve hours a day in order to support a family is somehow bound up with taking "free money" from the government. Too much hatred, too much venom. The troll can't seem to grasp the idea of someone working hard and long hours and getting paid a reasonable wage in turn.

Fact is, minimum wage increases only after unionized labor and other labor groups push for it. Nobody gives workers anything. The real tragedy here is that dimwits like Troll and Kath R wallow in the ignorance that owners depend on in order to sustain the enduring equation of high profits and low wages. In their remarks, moreover, the core of their character oozes out. Is their comic book ideology one that attracts all that is vile within a human being? Or is it that their ideology enables them to rationalize their hollowness as human beings?

Re-read Troll and the other monikers he posts with. Re-read KR's cardboard cut-out remarks. "Actually...." Would you want to get to know these people on a personal level? Didn't think so. Ah, but the American public is increasingly learning more about these types, what personality flaws exist at the core of their being, and how we must raise our children to be a different, better type of soul.

Viva Progress! Viva Freedom! Viva Freedom and Equality for ALL Workers, Everywhere!

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Aug 30, 2013 at 9:29 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Go to school; earn a promotion; do anything OTHER than whine that life is treating you unfairly. Saying, "Do you want fries with that," is not a career. Hopefully its's a step toward a better paying position.

What I said was I want to see the data that justifies $15 an hour. Maybe it's right; maybe it isn't. I made no judgement call, though you'd like to attribute one to me. And as other have pointed out, it won't be my dollar anyway.

Posted by Camillo, a resident of Valley Trails
on Aug 30, 2013 at 10:23 pm

Hey lady, I go to school. I know 3 languages and work harder then you do. Why don't you go to school? Why don't you learn Spanish or Chinese like I know how to speak. Instead of being a winey you know what, make some thing with the rest of your life. Your seriously messed up lady. You put words in my mouth. Life is good lady. My hard work should get better pay. What do you do other than wine about me making a better wage so I can support me and my family.

Can you say do you want fries in Spanish or Chinese? Like I say lady you can't do the work I do. And you sit and tell me how to live? You've got some serious issues lady.

Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2013 at 10:35 pm

Camillo, let me take a 100% self-serving stand on your situation. I sincerely hope that you're motivated to improve your quality of life and to take steps to improve your skills to get off the bottom of the wage scale. If you do so, you'll not only be helping yourself, but also me. I don't benefit from minimum-wage unskilled fast-food workers. But I do benefit from higher-skilled, higher-paid workers that bring expertise and value into the marketplace. The tide rises, and we all rise along with it. Take advantage of the programs that are available in education and advancement.

As long as you blame your boss for your low wages, you won't get very far. Your boss is your boss for a reason - he or she is responsible for running some part of the overall business. If your boss is skilled at their job, you'll be compensated based on the value that you bring to the organization. Flipping burgers = low value = low skill required = low wages.

Ultimately, the value of your job is completely dependent on the value of the product you produce. Fast food is driven by competition with other fast-food vendors; somewhat on the perceived quality of the food, but mostly on price. You can't get paid $15 an hour, because to do so, the price of your product would need to increase, which would drive business away, and then your company would need fewer workers. Yes, it really is as simple as that.

Posted by Camillo, a resident of Valley Trails
on Aug 30, 2013 at 10:56 pm

Joe dude, you like the bottom. You don't know anything. You've got issues like the lady. We want to lift the bottom up. You don't get it dude. You can't do what I do and you say I belong at the bottom. That's messed up dude.

Yo Mike. Your right. They don't pay more then they have to. they got people lined up out the door who will work for minimum and uses that against us. Only when we push back do we get more pay. Si, se puede! Viva mis Amigos!

Posted by Listen up !, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 30, 2013 at 11:52 pm

Yes Joe, those 'demanding' are full of contradictions. Hard to grasp, because they are illogical. Stupid people do not understand why or how we are the miracle in the eyes of the world. They do not get it. Fast food jobs .were NEVER meant to provide for a 'family'. They are for teenagers, and immigrant elders WHILE they are studying English and our constitution to become citizens and fully assimilate....the way MY grandparents did, while they paid off their passage and learned English first thing. Government never gave so much as a cup of coffee in those days..AND, not get pregnant until they could 'provide' for a family. There were NO government programs ! Most people here do NOT start at the top, except for a few brilliant tech founders, everybody starts at the bottom. MY white brother picked fruits and worked in 'canning' factories all through high school and college, and gas stations during the school year. Bur on his own, he did become a COLLEGE PHYSICS PROFESSOR!!! But then dumb politicians decided kids couldn't do that work anymore, making it harder to 'get started', like PRICING PEOPLE OUT of fast food jobs!! Usually it's stupid politicians that allow these 'protection' laws, which make everything WORSE !!
I am sick of the unions destroying our elementary schools and colleges and breaking our cities and state Unions drive UP the cost of everything ! I watched a townhall on C-Span today with a Cuban congressman to a Hispanic audience. A Hispanic SEIU union organizer/ union recruiter was there to rouse the group to raise minimum wages (&PRICES)!! Many were illegals learning how to 'demand'...NOT understanding economic causes & effects!! His closing chant was 'agitate'!! agitate! agitate. That's their new mantra!. Political whores, illegals, and union recruiters chanting agitate are in the process of destroying our country, because they do NOT WANT to ASSIMILATE and work within our system. Hypocrites come to our country because they've heard how GREAT it is, then PROCEED, and politicians are willing to sell out themselves, and sellout us, 'the public', as well, in the course of destroying our systems and our middle class. Middle class use to be something to strive for. Today, it is becoming difficult to hang on for those we DID make it, but are now falling below that from being unemployed. Yet the stupid and greedy demand to 'start out' at that famous middle class, while it is slipping away for those who had made middle-class. People better wake up. Just ruling an unsustainable minimum wage will make things worse.
An economists in today's paper, said jumping $$8-15., will increase the cost of a 'burger' and in the process cost jobs, and increase the COL. Ignorant, stupid, and greedy people will ultimately hurt themselves and the country.

Posted by Listen up !, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2013 at 12:07 am

Camillo, push back and we'll have wars in the streets.
Need has ZERO to do with wages. People are 'in charge' of DECIDING their 'family size', which is the biggest contributing factor to their needs. I had one child. Every job has a certain 'value'. Value is determined by how many people there are for a certain job...too many people for one job, not worth very much. If it's something a teenager can do without much education, it will NOT pay very much. 'Wanting more', 'needing more', or 'demanding more' is irrelevant!! If employer needs someone with special skills that require lots of education there won't be many for that job so it will pay more. Learn, Assimilate, work your own way UP, now demand as a group and wind up with nothing. I think that thinking might be accepted in some countries. They might be worth checking out. We're all about 'individuals' here.

Posted by Daveg, a resident of Birdland
on Aug 31, 2013 at 10:03 pm

Daveg is a registered user.

Interesting article in the latest issue of Time magazine dated September 9, 2013 regarding "The Robot Economy". One of the statements in the article was, "If your job involves applying a set of logical rules to task after task – for example grilling a hamburger – you are ripe for replacement by a robot".
Several other points reinforce the fact that repetitive jobs are ripe for automation. I understand Camillo's, i.e. "dude's" frustration with his pay rate, however when one looks at what is required then it's obvious his language skills could be better utilized elsewhere. However, flipping burgers does not require knowing three different languages and expecting $15 for such a job is not going to happen.

Posted by Karl Bonner, a resident of another community
on Oct 24, 2013 at 12:11 am

Karl Bonner is a registered user.

Radical conservatives like Listen Up! and Kathleen, etc. are the typical FOXNEWS thinkers who refuse to accept that the capitalist system has been failing American workers for 30 years.

Radical conservatives refuse to accept that some grievances over low wages and income inequality might be perfectly legitimate and rooted in meritocracy, and instead choose to flippantly dismiss legitimate concerns for economic fairness as being "crybabyish."

Radical conservatives lost the 2012 election due to their flippant attitudes toward income inequality, economic fairness, and capitalists squeezing workers' pay relative to productivity. After 32 years since the election of Reagan, they have LOST the battle of ideas.

And now radical conservatives threw a huge infantile temper tantrum in the House of Representatives for 16 days because they're not getting their way with the American people, further undermining their 2014 prospects to the point where not even gerrymandering may be a reliable strategy anymore.

I'm looking forward to electing a bunch more Elizabeth Warrens to the House and Senate over the next two election cycles! Maybe we can finally get real respect for the 99% agenda.

Posted by Karl Bonner, a resident of another community
on Oct 24, 2013 at 1:12 am

Karl Bonner is a registered user.

Wow. Conservatives have sure become completely clueless when it comes to the shifting reality of the American economy, and the fact that Karl Marx is turning out to be at least half correct:

Web Link

I can forgive, though. The whole conservative movement has long rested in a propaganda system designed to promote and advance the economic interests of the 1%, not the 99%.

The simple truth is that the middle-wage jobs have been hollowed out over the past 40 years, and all we are left with are low-wage "McJobs" and a handful of specialized professional jobs. Yet somehow, in the eyes of many a modern-day right-wing conservative, the TENS of millions of low-wage service-sector workers are all just a bunch of teenagers who need to be taught work ethics, responsibility, 'emotional maturity' (i.e. shut up and suck it up), conformity to orthodox cultural norms, and abstinence until heterosexual marriage.

Is $15 too high a wage to ask for? I say YES - but $10 ought to be a pretty realistic goal to fight for. Given that, after our Marxian overproduction crisis and Keynesian liquidity trap, we are left with a problem of inadequate consumer demand. If all the big corporate retailers (food and hard goods) could somehow get together (or get pressured by sufficiently strong grassroots movements), and give every low-wage service employee a $1/hour raise, then someone working 40 hours' worth of these jobs every week would earn another $2,000 per year. Given that propensity to save is very low at lower income levels, that money would quickly get spent back in the economy, so the real cost to the retailers' bottom lines would actually be a lot less than it appears at first glance. And more consumption is exactly what the economy needs to grow right now, not more austerity and tax cuts for the 1%.

My intuition is that the service sector could probably support up to $3 worth of wage increases before some of the first symptoms of "going too high" start to set in. But even $1 would be a tremendous boon to workers and to the economy as a whole.

Posted by liberalism is a disease, a resident of Birdland
on Oct 26, 2013 at 7:25 pm

liberalism is a disease is a registered user.

Kkkarl, I admit to being part of the 1% and would not normally engage someone at your level that has displayed a twisted outlook on economics, but you must be corrected. Your assumption (intuition) that a business should forego any revenue that makes someone like you feel good or less guilty by propping up unskilled workers is fallacious. Workers earn money for services provided, based on their value to their employer, not based on your feeling, your assumption of how the business should spend their capital or a govt mandate from socialists currently occupying office.

Your version of utopia was tried in the failed Soviet experiment. It's time for you and your far left comrades to move on and if you must socially engineer entry level workers, try supporting educating them to earn their worth, not provide them with corp. welfare.