Fast food strikes build in Michigan, Chicago

Non-unionized workers continue intensifying spate of walkouts against low wages

Published July 31, 2013 3:25PM (EDT)

Wednesday marked the third day in a row of walkouts by fast food workers around the country, protesting low wages. Workers from 80 restaurant chain sites in Detroit and Flint, Mich. walked off the job, joining workers in New York City, Chicago, St. Louis, Milwaukee and Kansas City who have carried out similar actions recently in the fight for $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation.

Chains including McDonald's, Taco Bell, Burger King and Wendy's have seen their workers walk out in protest and solidarity, despite the fact that the corporate structure of the fast food industry in this country , as Time noted this week, "has been able to keep any sorts of unionization efforts from creeping into the workplace for decades."

The Michigan strikes too were bolstered by similar efforts Wednesday in restaurant chains across Chicago. "Inspired by the courage and success in winning raises and other workplace victories following the first Chicago based fast-food and retail strikes of April 24, hundreds of workers from new fast-food and retail store locations in and beyond downtown Chicago will join this week’s strikes," a release from strike organizers noted.

Writing for Salon earlier this week, Josh Eidelson recounted how the walk out efforts have intensified since they began with a short-term strike in New York last year, involving 200 restaurant workers across the city:

Over the past four months, that walkout has been followed by similar work stoppages in five other cities, and a second New York City strike roughly twice as large. Each of those strikes has been backed by the Service Employees International Union and local allies, and each has shared the same demands: a raise to $15 per hour, and the chance to form a union without intimidation by management. This week’s strikes will include five of those six cities – New York, Chicago,St. LouisDetroit, and Milwaukee- and two new ones: Kansas City and Flint, Mich. (A spokesperson for the campaign in Seattle, where workers struck in May, told Salon to expect “a series of escalating direct actions” there this week.)

Commenting on whether the continued labor activism was likely to bring the desire wage hikes (from the minimum $7.25 to $15), MSNBC's Ned Resnikoff noted that pushing for a federal minimum wage hike was unlikely to yield success any time soon, and certainly not without a good deal of political jockeying within the halls of Capitol Hill:

Federal legislation has the potential to raise the wage for all low-wage workers in one fell swoop. There is currently legislation pending in both the House and Senate that would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. That is well below fast food workers’ asking price but is nonetheless significantly higher than the current federal minimum wage of $7.25. It’s even higher than the most generous state-level minimum wage, Washington state’s $9.19 per hour.

But the legislation, known as the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, has little chance of passing a Republican-controlled House. As a result, members of the House Progressive Caucus are seeking other avenues for an increase, such as attaching a wage-hiking amendment to a more Republican-friendly bill.



By Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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Fast Food Forward Fast Food Strike Labor Rights Mcdonalds Minimum Wage Strikes Unions Walkouts