Fighting for $15 an Hour and a Union – Fast Food Workers Rising Up


If the minimum wage today had the same buying power as the minimum wage in 1968, then it would be $10.55 an hour. Yet one in four workers in the U.S. are paid less than $10 an hour, and most have no benefits or job security. The last three decades have seen a steady erosion of medium-income jobs with basic benefits, and the Great Recession that began in 2008 has destroyed millions more of these jobs.

On November 29, 2012, workers at dozens of fast food restaurants in New York City walked off the job, formed pickets outside, and raised demands for higher wages, better hours, and union rights as part of the Fast Food Forward campaign. It was a truly inspiring moment to see workers who suffer silently in the margins come forward to speak up for themselves.

These heroic workers are taking a stand, and we, as socialists, give them our unconditional support. Fast Food Forward, backed by New York Communities for Change (NYCC),, the Black Institute, and SEIU, is the biggest attempt ever to organize fast food workers, and this is only the beginning in New York.

One of their demands is for $15 per hour in pay. This is significant, as many low-wage battles have called for much more modest pay increases. By asking for $15 they’re going beyond saying they want a little more. The message is: “we deserve a living wage.” In truth, $15 per hour in New York City is not enough to live on for some, especially those with families, but it’s an enormous step in that direction.

Fast food workers are not the only ones taking bold measures to fight for better conditions. On November 23, 2012, Black Friday, there were actions at upwards of 1,000 Walmarts across the country, with workers demanding no retaliation for speaking up, better hours, and $13 per hour in pay. These actions were not just one-off events, but are part of an on-going campaign of Walmart workers.

Fast food companies were expected to bring in $200 billion in revenue in 2012. Walmart’s revenues in 2011 totaled $477 billion with $15.7 billion of that being pure profit. The Walton family alone now owns more wealth than the entire bottom 42 percent of families in the U.S. This obscene wealth is not created by smart business people making smart business decisions; it comes off the backs of their highly exploited workers, who are rewarded for their hard work with poverty wages.

The Fast Food Forward campaign is a step in the right direction. A dynamic strategy is needed to organize highly coordinated actions on a truly massive scale if we’re going to bring these corporations to heel. We’ll need strikes and walkouts at hundreds of fast food stores, with visible pickets outside every one, backed up by thousands of Occupy and trade union activists and other supporters.