For Immediate Release

Fast Food Protests Today

WASHINGTON - USA Today reports: “Fast-food workers demanding a $15 an hour wage walked out in dozens [of] cities at 6 a.m. Tuesday, kicking off a year-long campaign to muster the political power of 64 million low-wage workers in next year’s presidential election.”

The Real News reports: “Low-Wage Workers to Target Republican Debate in Milwaukee.”

ARUN GUPTA, currently in Seattle, Gupta is an investigative journalist who has written for dozens of publications including the Washington Post, the Guardian, The Nation, and Salon. His reporting on Service Employees International Union’s fast-food worker organizing campaign include, “Fight for 15 confidential” and “Low-wage workers struggles are about much more than wages.”

He said today: “Since SEIU’s fast-food worker organizing campaign — often known as ‘Fight for 15′ — began in 2011, the union has set in motion thousands of workers, made the plight of the working poor a topic of national conversation, opened the door to related efforts like $15 Now, and turned a slogan into reality with $15 minimum-wage laws in Seattle, the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and New York City. The protests are timed one year before the 2016 election. The Hill reports: “’The Fight for $15 has shown it can influence the politics around wages and the economy,’ Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, said in a statement. ‘This movement is creating a new voting bloc that frankly has too often been ignored by the political process.'”

“But as evidenced by the 270 nationwide rallies intended to influence the 2016 election, Fight for 15 is more a march on the media than a worker organizing campaign. Interviews with dozens of workers and SEIU organizers have revealed workers have almost no input over the goals of the campaign, who is being organized, what is the strategy, or even when or how to protest. As opposed to claims by SEIU that Fight for 15 is a worker-led campaign, the strategy is designed and carried out by the union leadership as well as its P.R. firm, BerlinRosen, that has reportedly been paid tens of millions of dollars by SEIU.

“Practically, SEIU is not building a lasting movement. Without a bottom-up movement gains can erode quickly. In cities like Seattle skyrocketing housing costs are already outpacing most wage gains. A top-down media-driven strategy makes it difficult to address workplace issues that are not as dramatic as low wages, such as erratic schedules or lack of benefits. Broader problems of low-wage workers tend to be overshadowed as well, like long commutes, lack of childcare, substandard housing, poor public services and education, inadequate healthcare, and overpolicing.

“There’s also little historical evidence that ‘rallying’ for elections has much effect. What does change the political process are grassroots movements that disrupt workplaces, schools, and government through sit-ins, blockades, and strikes. This history is crucial to understanding both the nature of Fight for 15, and its potential for change.”


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