By Doug Porter
Standing up for better wages in the fast food restaurant industry; it’s been like the little engine that could. Last November it was just a couple hundred fast food restaurant employees in New York City. By July the movement grew to include thousands of workers across seven other cities, including Chicago, Detroit, and Seattle.
On Thursday, August 29th, one day after nationwide commemorations of the 50th anniversary of the march for “Jobs and Freedom”, fast food and retail workers in
35 58 cities nationwide will stage one day strikes, job actions and demonstrations.
Here in San Diego the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, led by Rabbi Coskey will be answering the nationwide call for higher wages and better working conditions. They’re urging people join them at 1st and Broadway on Thursday at 10am to stand in solidarity with fast food workers around the country. (More info here)
Harold Meyerson at the Washington Post today makes the argument for the link between economic and civil rights putting these actions into a meaningful context:
Of all the commemorations of the March on Washington, the one that will best capture its spirit isn’t really a commemoration at all. Thursday, one day after the 50th anniversary of the great march, fast-food and retail workers in as many as 35 cities will stage a one-day strike demanding higher wages.
Sadly, the connection between the epochal demonstration of 1963 and a fast-food strike in 2013 couldn’t be more direct.
The march 50 years ago was, after all, a march “For Jobs and Freedom,” and its focus was every bit as economic as it was juridical and social. Even more directly, one of the demands highlighted by the march’s leaders and organizers was to raise the federal minimum wage — then $1.15 an hour — to $2. According to Sylvia Allegretto and Steven Pitts of the Economic Policy Institute, that comes out to $13.39 today. (This week, fast-food workers will march seeking an hourly wage of $15.)
The movement for better wages in the fast food and retail industries is not like a typical union organizing effort. Backed by community, labor, and religious groups and spread via social media, the focus has been on pressuring the industry as a whole rather than trying to sign up workers to join specific unions.
They are also part of a drive to pressure Congress to raise the federal minimum wage of $7.25, which has not increased in four years. President Obama has supported an effort to raise the minimum wage to $9. California Senator Barbara Boxer announced support for a $10 minimum wage this week.
Richard Florida, writing in Atlantic Cities, summarizes the situation well:
Zeynep Ton of MIT’s Sloan School of Management has argued extensively that the choice between high wages and high profits is a false dichotomy. Last fall, writing about a New York Times article on retail work, she wrote:
There is no need to choose between low prices and good jobs. It is possible (though nobody said it’s easy) to provide the lowest prices to customers and much better jobs for employees and great returns for shareholders, all at the same time.
But it’s important to remember that this connection is not automatic. Jobs don’t upgrade themselves. Henry Ford’s decision to pay his workers $5 a day had limited impact and did little to change national wage standards more broadly. It took the efforts of organized labor and New Deal legislation to create the new social compact that improved working class wages, created a broad middle class, and drove broad post-war American prosperity.
This week’s fast food strike is a sign that America‘s service workers are putting two-tiered capitalism on notice. And these efforts may be the first inklings of the kinds of struggle needed to create a new social compact for the split economy and labor market of post-industrial knowledge capitalism.
I Have a Dream… Redux
The news media today will be filled with stories commemorating the great Civil Rights march in Washington five decades ago. There will undoubtedly be a lot of patting on the back in some quarters over ‘how far we’ve come.’
One need look no further than the current occupant of the White House to validate that belief. And you can look to that same address for all the evidence needed to make the case that, while the ‘whites only’ signs are gone, the real battle—the battle for a higher standard in our national core beliefs—is far from over.
The victories of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s unleashed a more sophisticated form of racism, one that sneers rather than snarls. The goals are the same, the tactics are more sophisticated; play on people’s fears to enact legislation and create policies whose only real purpose is to preserve privileges for a few.
It’s instructive, I think, to look back at how the March for Jobs and Freedom was received in some quarters, and just how ugly things were.
David Corn at Mother Jones today captures that evil essence, talking about the reaction of J Edgar Hoover and others in government:
The August 1963 march, which captured the imagination of many Americans, further unhinged Hoover and his senior aides. The day after the speech, William Sullivan, a top Hoover aide, noted in a memo, “In the light of King’s powerful demagogic speech… We must mark him now, if we have not done so before, as the most dangerous Negro of the future in this Nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro, and national security.” Six weeks later, pressured by Hoover, Bobby Kennedy authorized full electronic surveillance of King. FBI agents placed bugs in King’s hotel rooms; they tapped his phones; they bugged his private apartment inAtlanta. The surveillance collected conversations about the civil rights movement’s strategies and tactics—and also the sounds of sexual activity. Hoover was enraged by the intelligence about King’s private activities.
At one point, according to Weiner’s book, while discussing the matter with an aide, an irate Hoover banged a glass-topped desk with his fist and shattered it.
Hoover did not let up. A little more than a year after the march, after King had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Hoover told a group of reporters that King was “the most notorious liar in the country.”
Saldaña’s Thinking About It
After telling the media she wasn’t really interested in running for Mayor just two weeks ago, former Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña told UT-San Diego yesterday “she’s being encouraged by progressive Democrats and others to reconsider her initial reluctance to run as a replacement candidate for Mayor Bob Filner.”
I am listening to people making the case of why I would be a good candidate,” she told the paper. “Also, there is the consideration that right now we have no women in the race.”
An informal poll taken by Hillquest.com shows Saldaña in the lead with 58% as the preference of readers of the urban-style city guide, which focuses on San Diego’s politically active uptown neighborhoods.
And there’s the Facebook “Draft Lori Saldana for a Progressive San Diego Mayor” page, which sprung up yesterday, already brimming with posts from well wishers and articles talking about here past political activities.
Saldaña is a college professor and currently president of the San Diego chapter of the Sierra Club. She was the 76th Assembly District representative from 2004 until 2010 when term limits prevented her from seeking another term.
DeMaio Watch, Ugh.
This story has been UPDATED to the ‘sneaky’ bathroom account clearer.
Former City Councilman Carl DeMaio took the offensive yesterday, announcing to NBC’s Gene Cubbison that he’d passed a polygraph exam in an effort to clear his name and denying reports suggesting he’d been seen gratifying himself in a City Council restroom.
UT-San Diego’s Koch cast-off Trent Siebert was dispatched to bring DeMaio’s denial to the people of San Diego.
Check out this UT ‘coverage:’(emphasis mine)
DeMaio on Tuesday said he had passed lie detector tests to refute an allegation made by Democrat State Sen. Ben Hueso last week in the Voice of OC, a website founded with labor money in Orange County.
In the article by Rex Dalton, Hueso contends that he snuck up on DeMaio in a City Hall bathroom in 2009 and saw him masturbating.
Here’s what the original article (which DeMaio’s lawyers have asked to be retracted) said:
Describing the scene that spring when he walked in on DeMaio, who was in front of a urinal with his pants down, Hueso said: “DeMaio was masturbating. He jumped, caught by surprise. He jumped to the sink … saying ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry’ about six times. Then washed his hands, darted out.”
Sneaky, huh? I’m just reprinting the above to give a clear and indisputable example of how the UT-San Diego reporter spun his story.
On a later occasion Hueso did follow DeMaio from the Council meeting and quietly open the door. By then, according to VOOC account, it was an open secret among the members. But the initial encounter had nothing to do with sneaking.
Again, DeMaio denies the allegations. I (and a gaggle of reporters around town) knew about the story several years ago and could see no reason to pursue it. But now that the former City Councilman has gone public with his denials, the story is destined to live on…
Calling Out the B*ll Sh*t at Channel 10 News
Yesterday was my day at the editor’s helm here at San Diego Free Press, and that means I was responsible for the email. Aside from a dozen pieces of intelligible garbage from some whack-a-doodle who hates Rep. Scott Peters, the day was quiet until I spotted a message from 10News looking to get in contact with Judi Curry, who contributes stories, moral support, outrage and homemade jams to SDFP and theOBRag.
It turns out that Judi was—gasp!—photographed standing next to Bob Filner at a Point Loma Democratic Club potluck Sunday. And, in her account of the Dems gathering published in the OBRag, she shared that picture. Adding to the ‘story’ 10News was seeking, the Mayor had—gasp!—a beer in his hand.
The crack 10News team ran the photo from the OBRag on Monday, calling out Judi as a ‘mystery woman’. No doubt one of their anonymous GOP sources forgot to tell him about a) the name tag she’s wearing in the picture and b) her byline on the article.
So the email to SDFP on Tuesday generated a second day of coverage. 10News coverage of the ‘mystery woman’ garnered a whole two minutes of coverage. Just unbeleiveable. Thanks to Judi for not letting those so-called journalists twist your words. Watch this ‘news’ for yourself, here.
On This Day: 1963 – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. articulates demands for justice and a dream for America. 1963 – Peter, Paul & Mary performed “Blowin’ In The Wind” before Civil Rights marchers who had gathered in Washington. 2008 – Senator Barack Obama accepts the Democratic Party’s nomination for the American presidency.
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