Fast food workers are planning the largest international worker strike to date, and a bevy of news stories from this week show just how scared the food industry actually is of the rising tide of worker organization.
On May 15, labor organizers have planned one-day walkouts and strikes across 150 U.S. cities. That's impressive enough, but they've also planned similar protests in 32 countries across five continents, from the Phillippines to the UK to New Zealand to Brazil to Nigeria. Assuming they pull it off, this would be the first global fast food worker strike and could signal a new phase of the movement to maybe pay workers an actual, livable wage for their labor.
So far, the restaurant industry has been silent in the face of this announcement, which is telling. For all of their previous public bluster and attempts to minimize the importance of the strikes as some passing phase, we've received ample evidence that the food industry is starting to panic in the face of the rising tide in support of minimum wage. Earlier this week, Salon uncovered a bevy of private documents from inside the National Restaurant Association (the so-called "other NRA") that show just how worried they are at the food industry's largest lobbying arm. In addition to tracking protest movements using the protest organizers' own Low Pay is Not OK website, they're also attempting to go after both the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) using "third party allies" to "place op-eds and letters to the editors criticizing ROC and exposing its shady past."
What's interesting is that the documents make clear that the NRA is particularly obsessed with the ROC, tracking them relentlessly, even going so far as to track restaurants the ROC has talked about as being good employers. ROC co-founder Saru Jayaraman, a particular target for the NRA, points out in that the NRA would probably have a much easier time of it if they took all those resources devoted to tracking and discrediting food industry workers and just decided to pay the workers better.
But what the NRA and most of the food industry in general hasn't yet caught onto is the fact that the current rate of CEO-to-worker pay, as well as the refusal to pay workers a living wage, is unsustainable. Sooner or later, the whole house of cards has to come crashing down, and by refusing to acknowledge that what they're doing isn't viable in the long-term, the restaurant industry is only harming both itself and the American economy. The funny thing is that a lot of the smarter business elements are starting to figure this out: on Wednesday, Subway CEO Fred DeLuca said that he didn't think raising the minimum wage was a bad idea, and even suggested indexing it to inflation, and on Thursday, Dairy Queen CEO John Gainor echoed his comments. On that same day, no less than Mitt Romney said that Republicans should be supporting the idea of a minimum wage hike. It's worth noting that Romney has in the past made comments supportive of indexing the minimum wage to inflation, although to be fair, you'd be hard-pressed to find a political position Romney hasn't taken at some point during his career.
Regardless, the writing is on the wall: the status quo for the last two decades isn't going to cut it any more.
Image via AP.