The past year has seen a wave of strikes in both the fast food and retail industries spreading over 35 American cities. This budding labor movement has stirred hope in low wage workers around the country, inspiring them to call for a nationwide walkout of fast-food restaurant and retail employees in protest of their low pay. This collective action by low wage workers in America hopes to begin a reversal of an ever widening gap between the wealthy and the working class. Through their demonstrations, the workers are raising awareness of the dramatic growth in income inequality in recent decades, a trend illustrated in a graph produced by the Economic Policy Institute.
Today, 1% of the population now controls 40% of our nation’s wealth. CEO compensation has increased 728% since 1978, compared to 5% for average workers. CEO’s now earn 354 times the wage of average workers; in 1980 CEO’s earned 42 times the average wage.
The current minimum wage of $7.25 is 23 percent less than it was in 1968 in real terms. By demanding a living wage and the right to have unions, fast food workers are leading the way to a more just economy.
There is no inherent reason why work in the restaurant, hospitality, retail, construction, or health care sectors should not be middle class jobs. Highly profitable and often global corporations can afford to pay more. The action taken today, August 29th, 2013 by low wage workers has an honored precedent. Back in the 1930’s, manufacturing jobs in the auto and steel industries did not pay a living wage. Workers engaged in strikes and sit-ins and organized unions. Through their unions, manufacturing workers were able to win contracts providing decent wages, health care, and pensions. As union membership has declined due to globalization and outsourcing, the middle class has shrunk. By organizing unions, fast food and other workers can begin to shrink income inequality and restore the middle class.
Though August 29th, 2013 is the official nationwide walkout, it is not the first and certainly will not be the last time low wage workers will band together to combat the increasing income gap. At Ashcraft & Gerel, we want to help. We believe in everyone’s right to make a living wage and in the revival of middle class America. If you would like to organize but aren’t sure how or even where to begin, contact Virginia Diamond at (800) 674-9725 or fill out our online form.