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NYC Fast Food Workers Make Play to Become Labor’s Vanguard

Dateline:4/4/13 New York City

The signature hallmark of a growing labor movement on the ascendency has been traditionally marked by a militant minority coming into the ranks of a struggle that has pitted them and the rest of the downtrodden laboring masses against powerful, self-serving monied interests that will, quite literally, stop at absolutely nothing to wipe out any forms of organized resistance. This wealthy, finance-based, Oligarchical faction has long banded together under the banner of various anachronisms in recent history as a means to camouflage their greed and stubborn stupidity. Wrapping themselves up in a banner of “patriotism” seems to be their favorite fallback position when exposed. Just look no further than the Jingoistic, Yellow Press Fox News and you will get the idea.

Business collectives such as the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) successfully eroded workers’ rights, bought off and prostituted an entire generation of newspaper reporters, were defeatist appeasers to growing Fascist movements overseas, and generally wreaked havoc on the United States’ general welfare from 1904 all the way up and into the darkest days of the Second World War. Perhaps the biggest mistake and disappointment of the Nuremburg Trials was that it wasn’t brought over to the United States to reign in and bridle this parasitical class by exposing the treasonous efforts of the NAM and many of its members. For example, none other than Mitt Romney’s father, George Romney, did everything he could to severely limit vital aluminum production as head of ALCOA, and was actually accused by Secretary of the Interior under Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the curmudgeonly Harold Ickes, as being culpable of deliberate underproduction to sabotage the war efforts.

It should therefore come as no surprise that the current dire straits of the American worker’s situation is marked by a similar conflict. While ethnicities and the circumstances of those involved may have changed since the Days of Terrence Powderly’s Knights of Labor, the stakes remain the same; feudalistic slave labor wages, unfair treatment in the workplace and the erosion of worker’s rights - thought to be virtually sacrosanct and untouchable by Labor leaders, after the advances made under the New Deal - are now under constant attack. Complacency, cowardice, and the changing demographics of the retired and aging Baby Boomer’s and Gen-Xer’s have not helped the situation very much either…but that seems to be changing - as the night is always darkest before the dawn and those that dare to struggle can win.

Labor Unions have seen their lowest membership in nearly a century, down to 11.3 percent nationally, divided somewhat evenly between public and private sector enrollment. A new group of  underpaid and mistreated workers seem to be emerging amongst the  “entry level” minimum wage fast food industry. Although currently without a union to represent them, the mostly Black and Hispanic minority workers of New York City seem to smell blood in the water and that the time is nigh for a major concession by the monopolized Fast Food Industry to increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15.00 per hour. The modern day equivalent of the National Association Of Manufacturer’s,  ALEC, or the euphemistically named American Legislative Exchange, have done everything possible within the US State Legislatures to prohibit Minimum Wage increases and promote their Fascist divide and conquer agenda, but they too, have begun to become exposed. The Fast Food Workers are actively pursuing their demands to unionize and bargain collectively for a living minimum wage and better working conditions, like paid sick leave and adequate healthcare benefits – business groups like ALEC be damned!

Today, April 4th 2013, the same day some 50 years ago that Martin Luther King led a strike of the Memphis Sanitation workers for better wages, nearly 400 people rallied in support of the Cities Fast Food workers. They were joined in support by labor leaders, City Officials, Theologians, Civil Rights Activists, and just plain concerned citizens in a strong and vocal show of solidarity. Convening at the corner of Marcus Garvey Park and 124th St. to stage a well organized protest, they then marched over a few blocks to a nearby McDonalds making loud chants in unison the entire way.

Sad as this may sound, try getting these kinds of disparate groups to come out and organize for say, the Auto Workers Union or what’s left of the tattered remains of Rich Trumka’s AFL-CIO….Good luck. Labor leaders sell-outs, concessions and bending backwards to appease the likes of Obama’s two-face Union-busting demagoguery are not going to be tolerated by the likes of the activated Fast Food Workers, the most downtrodden of the working poor and those who have the most at stake. Their very survival and the survival of their families are at stake. Base attempts at duplicity or double-dealing offered up by the weakling Democrats or their more “progressive” cohorts in the Albany Statehouse or in Congress will not be tolerated by this group of newcomers on the labor scene. 

This event was a long-anticipated follow-up to an opening salvo made by the organizational efforts of New York Communities for Change, which was also represented but not at the forefront of the demonstration. This latest and much more successful effort, was headed up by the group Fast Food Forward. Other Labor organizations and groups in attendance were the SEIU, The New York State Labor and Religious Coalition, and the AFL-CIO, La Fuente, and I Am Worker Justice, just to name a few. Even NAACP president Ben Jealous was whisked in (and out) to be given the opportunity to offer a somewhat hackneyed and cliched speech to the crowd.  Introduced as a “Rock Star,” Jealous as head of the NAACP has been on a Public Relations blitz of sorts after its former chapter president, Reverend Edward Pinkney, had exposed the NAACP in its collusion with Big Business in the State of Michigan and was removed from his position - simply because he dared to be so bold as to stand up to the number one appliance maker in the world: Whirlpool.

The event was well publicized on various social media sites and coordinated by the efforts of Fast Food Forward. The UFAA’s presence was singular in its demand for a One Percent Wall St. Sales tax, along with its show of solidarity with the Fast Food Workers for a living wage of $15.00 per hour.

The UFAA’s ideas seemed to be well received according to this organizer’s experience. Nearly 300 pieces of literature on the WSST were distributed and UFAA’s plan for a true recovery, spearheaded by the Nationalization of the Federal Reserve as a means to generate trillions of dollars in desperately needed funds for a massive infrastructure rebuilding program, seemed to spark interest. Further involvement in integrating the UFAA’s demands with those of the Fast Food Workers of New York City will be reported on in the near future.