Fight for $15 Gains Ground

FF15 Worldcenter SD Fly 4 15 ENG  SPAN (2)_Page_1Ahead of the largest-ever mobilization of underpaid workers set to take place on April 15, everyone from the chairman of Ben & Jerry’s board to late night comedians to the editorial page of the New York Times is lining up behind the overwhelming call for $15 an hour and union rights.

Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show skewered McDonald’s widely-panned pay announcement Wednesday night, with host Larry Wilmore calling out the company’s wage stunt as a blatant attempt to avert a major strike planned for April 15:“Okay so I see what’s going on McDonald’s: so you’re trying to give them a little now so they won’t go on strike…but they’re going on strike anyway! Nicely done, fast-food workers.”

Mark Bittman wrote in the New York Times this week that it’s time for McDonald’s to embrace the need for bold change that puts workers at the center of the company’s turnaround: “What McDonald’s should do is go all in and really transform itself, because the effect of positive change would be immeasurable. If McDonald’s were truly ‘progressive,’…it might increase its workers’ wages (and hours) to something approaching a living wage.”

The New York Times editorial board similarly blasted the McDonald’s pay announcement, declaring that it “does not come close to meeting protesters’ demands for $15 an hour.” The Times reiterated: “A fair wage for all McDonald’s workers would be one that allowed them to get by without food stamps and other public assistance. […]That is money that should be coming out of corporate coffers and going into worker pay.

The New York Times on Monday profiled Julia Andino, a Brooklyn McDonald’s worker whose commitment to fighting for $15 an hour and union rights only deepened after hearing that McDonald’s recent pay announcement would not affect her or any of the workers at franchised stores who make up 90% of the company’s workers. The Times wrote, “These workers want real living wages and full-time jobs, which are still hard to come by,” and that ahead of April 15th, Andino “cheers herself with the hope that big changes — and real raises — are on the horizon.”

Bloomberg reported Thursday that the Change to Win Investment Group, a major pension advisor, has called on the New York Stock Exchange to investigate, and possibly delist, McDonald’s Latin American agent, Arcos Dorados, over a litany of governance issues.  Buzzfeed wrote that a letter sent to NYSE alleged the Arcos corporate government structure lacks independence.

Fast-food workers and the Bakers’ Food and Allied Workers’ Union announced major protests to take place in 10 cities throughout the UK on April 15. Fast food workers in the UK are united behind a demand for higher pay and an end to ‘zero-hours’ contracts that fuel instability and strain working families.

Ben & Jerry’s Board Chairman Jeff Furman wrote in Fortune this week that the upcoming April 15 strike “should be a wake-up call to the business community,” as it is “expected to add up to the largest mobilization of underpaid workers in history.” Issuing a call for major corporations to respond to historic worker demand for a living wage and voice on the job, Furman writes: “I’m hoping that one day we may look back and see April 15, 2015 as a day that marked a fork in the road.”

NBC News published an in-depth profile this week of adjunct professors paid so little that they are forced to rely on public assistance in order to afford basic expenses. As adjunct faculty nationwide prepare to join the April 15 strike after joining the Fight for 15 earlier this year, NBC reports that low pay forces one-in-five families of adjunct faculty to rely on the Earned Income Tax Credit and other public assistance programs.

In another in-depth piece about inequality in the food industry, Vox writes that the Fight for 15 could be a transformative force for addressing the low wages and horrific working conditions facing workers throughout the sector: “As food workers continue to be at the core of this movement, the working conditions of the food industry are very likely going to continue to make news in 2015. On April 15, organizers hope, diners will encounter ‘the largest low-wage worker protests in modern history’…  if successful, these protests might be an opportunity to consider labor and food together in a broader context.”

Ahead of the April 15 strike, the Washington Post published Friday “5 Myths About Fast-Food Workers,” busting industry myths about the fast-food workforce and setting the record straight about the reality of low pay, limited mobility, dangerous working conditions, and corporate responsibility for workers at franchised stores.

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