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“Dizzy and Sick”: McDonald’s Workers Strike After Enduring 110-Degree Heat

Workers in NYC and Chicago protest unsafe conditions in latest fast food walkout.

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Those strikes have anchored a union-backed comprehensive campaign against the country’s fast food corporations. In New York City,  that’s included the release of a report alleging rampant “ wage theft” in the industry, which coincided with the news that state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman had issued subpoenas to at least one fast food corporation. The New York City Council held a June meeting on fast food wage theft and working conditions. New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, one of several mayoral candidates who’ve rallied with fast food strikers, told Salon yesterday that amid the “dumbing-down of wage and benefit levels,” unionization “is in the public’s interest more broadly.”

At the federal level, the Congressional Progressive Caucus has launched a “Raise Up America” tour to promote an increase in the minimum wage and support for low-wage organizing efforts. Interviewed at last month’s Netroots Nation conference in San Jose, where he’d joined fast food workers and a few congressional colleagues for a campaign kick-off, CPC Co-Chair Keith Ellison, D-Minn., said, “The significance of this wave of low-wage workers striking is that they have had all they can stand, and they have to fight back…All the Progressive Caucus can do if we are worth the salt contained in our bodies is to stand with them.”

The fast food effort faces long odds. But, while today’s two strikes involve only a handful of employees, high-profile actions amplifying safety allegations could mean additional public pressure on fast food giants. Stories of workers striking over threats to their health could fuel the campaign’s outreach to customers and politicians. Achieving incremental victories like getting air conditioning fixed in individual stores could build momentum and engage more employees. And the smaller strikes could help develop leadership and broaden the base of workers prepared to participate in future actions that stretch across the city – or beyond.

 

Josh Eidelson (josheidelson.com) is a Nation contributor and was a union organizer for five years. He covers labor as a contributing writer at Salon and In These Times. Check out his blog or follow him on Twitter.

 
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