Mega May Day: Global Fast Food Strike

Though International Workers’ Day technically falls on the 1st of May each year (May Day), the biggest developments appear to be happening two weeks later.  From, here’s what’s occurring around the world today…

On May 15, after months of relative quiet, fast food workers in 150 American cities will again go on strike. Once again, they will demand that some of America’s largest low-wage employers provide a base wage of $15 per hour and allow their workers to unionize. And once again, the striking workers will be joined on the picket lines by local politicians, community activists, and members of the clergy.

This strike, which KFC worker and movement organizer Naquashia LeGrand announced at a Wednesday rally, will likely be the biggest fast food labor action yet. In terms of the number of cities involved, it will certainly dwarf the previous record, a 100-city strike which took place in December. But perhaps more importantly, this will be the first labor action in the movement’s short history to spill across national borders. As workers in the United States walk off the job, fast food employees on six other continents will rally in solidarity.

“I work hard enough, just like everybody else. So I deserve a fair wage to take care of my family, just like everybody else around the nation,” said LeGrand. “We all deserve a living wage to take care of our families. There is no reason why we should be living in poverty. And that’s the reason why we’re going on strike.”

Danish McDonald’s worker Louise Marie Rantzau came to New York to attend the conference, and she spoke at Wednesday’s rally. Danish McDonald’s workers are unionized, she told msnbc, and employees who are over 18 make $21 per hour in American dollars.

“I can’t understand how McDonald’s can pay me a good wage and not do it in the U.S.,” she said. “I have this feeling that McDonald’s makes so much money, and it all goes in their pockets. So if they can afford it in Denmark, then they can afford it in the rest of the world.”

If every country cared about paying living wages the way Denmark does, then international strikes wouldn’t be needed.

To ignore the needs of base-level service workers is to also ignore the realities of a 21st century global economy.  As factory work has transitioned from human hands to robotic sequences, the world has seen a corresponding decline in middle class industrial employment.  Those factory jobs aren’t coming back, at least not in the same way they once did. But this decline in available employment for the many sure isn’t slowing down profits for the privileged few.  A shocking new report from Demos states that those at the helm of our fast food corporations are doing better than ever…

The average compensation of fast food CEOs was $23.8 million in 2013, making these executives some of the best-paid workers anywhere in the economy. At the same time, the fast food workforce is the lowest paid, with wages that fall below those of other employees in the sector and with little access to non-wage benefits. The CEO-to-worker compensation ratio is being pushed to its heights from both the top and the bottom, as executives in fast food have seen incomes grow substantially since 2000 while workers experienced virtually no growth at all.

After the Great Recession ended in 2009, CEOs captured the tide of economic growth with impressive rapidity. Executive pay recovered and outstripped previous levels within a single year. Workers, though, were left out of these gains. Since 2000, the average fast food worker has seen her total compensation climb by just 0.3 percent in real terms, and in 2013 was still making less money than before the recession. As a result of the trends for both components of the CEO-to-worker ratio, fast food stands out for its extreme imbalance in compensation practices.

The disparity between CEOs and base-level workers is unacceptable, if not criminal.  Adding insult to injury are states like Texas, who already don’t lift a finger to help their workers by refusing to raise the minimum wage, or explore any serious options for healthcare expansion to the poor.  Until this downward spiral is halted, and these workers gain access to a living wage, the voices for change will grow louder.

Brains and Eggs has a great post on this as well.

Fast Food Strike

(Photo Credit: Houston Public Media)



VA Still Paying Civil War Benefits!

It’s popular in contemporary American politics to question the effectiveness of government. Republicans often cast doubt that Federal agencies will be able to honor their commitments. For example, that reasoning is a popular theme for many state Governors refusing to comply with the ACA Healthcare expansion.

But a shocker of an article in the Wall Street Journal serves as a reminder that the US works hard to keep it’s word. Amazing as it sounds, the VA is still paying out Civil War benefits to a living American…

WILKESBORO, N.C.—Each month, Irene Triplett collects $73.13 from the Department of Veterans Affairs, a pension payment for her father’s military service—in the Civil War.

More than 3 million men fought and 530,000 men died in the conflict between North and South. Pvt. Mose Triplett joined the rebels, deserted on the road to Gettysburg, defected to the Union and married so late in life to a woman so young that their daughter Irene is today 84 years old—and the last child of any Civil War veteran still on the VA benefits rolls.

Ms. Triplett’s pension, small as it is, stands as a reminder that war’s bills don’t stop coming when the guns fall silent. The VA is still paying benefits to 16 widows and children of veterans from the 1898 Spanish-American War.

The last U.S. World War I veteran died in 2011. But 4,038 widows, sons and daughters get monthly VA pension or other payments. The government’s annual tab for surviving family from those long-ago wars comes to $16.5 million.

Spouses, parents and children of deceased veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan received $6.7 billion in the 2013 fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. Payments are based on financial need, any disabilities, and whether the veteran’s death was tied to military service.

Two things come to mind from this… War is much more expensive than people realize, and the US honors its commitments.  It’s quite mind-boggling to think that we still have living connections to the Civil War, but Ms. Triplett serves as proof.  Her situation also begs to wonder how long we’ll be paying for the war in Iraq or current conflict in Afghanistan.

Triplett VA