Cornell University

August 21 2013

Strikes Building Pressure

Campaign for higher wages attracting support, Bronfenbrenner says

Strike for 15A national day of strikes is planned in dozens of American cities for Aug. 29 by fast food workers pushing for a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour.

Since the organizing effort began last November, the campaign has gained clarity and public support, according to Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of Labor Education Research at ILR.

"These strikes will cover more cities, in more states, and more workers than the others. The pressure will be put on state and federal government to raise the minimum wage and on the parent corporations to improve working conditions in the stores," she said.

The federal minimum wage has been $7.25 per hour since 2009. State minimum wage rates vary. Employees subject to both state and federal minimum wage laws are entitled to the higher wage, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

After receiving a show of public support on social media following the November strikes, organizers have expanded the campaign to include more than 35 cities across the country.

Bronfenbrenner noted the significance of the movement's geographical spread.

"This will be the first time the strike may start spreading South, where the same institutions in the black community who are organizing over the voting rights decision, are in place to support striking black and immigrant workers."

The walkout is planned to take place the day after the anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

Actions next week will involve thousands of low-wage workers in both the fast food and retail sectors, said organizers, who have received pledges of support through their Facebook pages and websites.

"The stronger the community networks and institutions, the more workers will participate in the strike because the public support will help them keep their jobs after the walkout," Bronfenbrenner said.

The Service Employees International Union has contributed millions of dollars to the campaign for an increased wage. The strikes have largely been orchestrated by local worker centers, nonprofit organizations composed of unions, clergy and community advocacy groups.

Bronfenbrenner discussed strategic changes organizers have made since the movement began in November.

"In this strike, the campaign has articulated its goals more clearly. It's focusing the attention on the state legislatures, because that is where workers, SEIU and the community allies have the most leverage," she said.

Currently, none of the nation's fast food restaurants are unionized, according to "The New York Times."