The next round of strikes by fast-food workers demanding higher wages is scheduled for Thursday, and this time, labor organizers plan to increase the pressure by staging widespread civil disobedience and having thousands of home-care workers join the protests.
The organizers say fast-food workers — who are seeking a $15 hourly wage — will go on strike at restaurants in more than 100 cities, including Seattle, and engage in sit-ins in more than a dozen cities.
By having home-care workers join, workers and union leaders hope to expand their campaign into a broader movement.
“On Thursday, we are prepared to take arrests to show our commitment to the growing fight for $15,” said Terrence Hays, a Burger King employee in Kansas City, Mo., and a member of the fast-food workers’ national organizing committee.
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At a convention that was held outside Chicago in July, 1,300 fast-food workers unanimously approved a resolution calling for civil disobedience as a way to step up pressure on the fast-food chains.
“They’re going to use nonviolent civil disobedience as a way to call attention to what they’re facing,” said Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which has spent millions of dollars helping to underwrite the campaign.
“They’re invoking civil-rights history to make the case that these jobs ought to be paid $15 and the companies ought to recognize a union.”
Fast-food chains and many franchise operators have said that $15 an hour was unrealistic and would wipe out profit margins at many restaurants. Some business groups have attacked the campaign as an attempt by a fading union movement to rally a new group of workers.
The SEIU hopes that if thousands of the nation’s approximately 2 million home-care aides join in it would put more pressure on cities and states to raise their minimum wage.
“They want to join,” Henry said. “They think their jobs should be valued at $15.”
SEIU officials are encouraging home-care aides to join protests in six cities — Seattle, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit. Union leaders say the hope is to expand to more cities in future strikes.
L.A. mayor backs $13.25 wage
Los Angeles, the second-most populous U.S. city, would boost its minimum wage to $13.25 by 2017, almost twice the current federal minimum, under a proposal released Monday by Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Garcetti, 43, a Democrat, will ask the City Council to lift the prevailing $9 minimum to $10.25 next year, then phase-in $1.50 annual raises over the following two years, according to his office.
The mayor’s proposal, timed for the Labor Day holiday, is part of a nationwide push in cities and states to lift wages for low-income earners, after efforts to raise the federal standard of $7.25 an hour stalled in Congress.
The Los Angeles minimum would top out at $13.25 in 2017, when the state wage is to reach $13 under a California law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year.
Seattle will raise its minimum to $15, the highest among any large U.S. city, over the next three to seven years, depending on the size of the employer. In San Francisco, voters in November will consider setting a $15 minimum by 2018.
Obama: ‘America deserves a raise’
President Obama renewed his push for Congress to raise the minimum wage Monday in a buoyant accounting of the economy’s “revving” performance, delivered on behalf of Democrats opening their fall campaigns for the midterm congressional elections.
“America deserves a raise,” he told a union crowd in Milwaukee, Wis., vowing to keep a hard sell on Congress in much the way he once courted his wife. “I just wore her down,” he cracked.
Timing his push to Labor Day, the traditional start of the autumn campaign, Obama aggressively drew attention to recent economic gains, setting aside past caution on that subject.
“By almost every measure the American economy and American workers are better off than when I took office,” he said, rattling off a string of improving economic indicators even while acknowledging not all people are benefiting.
“The engines,” he said, “are revving a little louder.”
It was, at least indirectly, a pep talk for Democrats facing tough races in a nation still gripped with economic anxieties.