By Doug Porter
Fast food workers in San Diego and 150 other cities will be walking off the job this Thursday demanding an industry-wide base wage of $15 per hour and the right to form a union.
This nationwide protest comes on the heels of Black Friday protests at 1600 WalMart stores in 49 states. Workers in stores in walked off the job in advance of the protests on Wednesday in California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Washington, D.C.
Demonstrators angered by events in Ferguson, Missouri targeted malls in cities around the country (including San Diego) urging shoppers to skip shopping to show solidarity with their cause.
The particulars of these events are not as important as what they represent: a growing sense of frustration with economic and social conditions. These actions are symbolic, intended to break through the “everybody knows” noise generated by the mass media.
An Important Anniversary
Fifty nine years ago today in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks refused to obey a bus driver’s order that she give up her seat in the colored section to a white passenger, after the white section was filled.
Her act of defiance became an important symbol of the US civil rights movement. Contrary to popular mythology, this was not the act of a woman too tired to care about the consequence; Nor was she the first; other women had previously challenged Alabama segregation laws, dating back to 1946.
Parks was secretary of the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP and had recently attended training at a a social justice leadership training school. This was a deliberate act, one that sparked a movement for social change.
Fast forward six decades and now there are individuals and organizations nationwide who are standing up to oppressive working conditions and low wages.
Despite economic growth and the stock market’s reaching record levels, the “economic recovery” hasn’t touched most Americans. Ninety-five percent of the income gains between 2009 and 2012 have gone to the top 1 percent of earners, as most new jobs created have paid low wages, and the number of middle-income jobs have shrunk. About one-third of all U.S. workers are paid less than $12 per hour, and most of them have no paid sick, family, or vacation leave; no employer-provided health insurance; and no pension plans. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that nearly half of all jobs created between 2012 and 2022 will be in low-wage occupations.
From Al Jazeera.com:
The first of the recent fast food strikes took place on Nov. 29, 2012, in New York City. Two hundred workers from various fast food restaurants around the city participated in that strike, making it the largest work stoppage to ever hit the fast food industry. Since then, the size of the movement has ballooned several times over: With the backing of the powerful service sector labor union SEIU, the campaign has come to include thousands of workers in the U.S.
One of the campaign’s main targets, the McDonald’s Corporation, has long maintained that labor protests against the company are not actually strikes in any meaningful sense…
…The National Worker Organizing committee, a nationwide steering group of 26 fast food workers around the country, approved the Dec. 4 strike date before it was proposed to the rest of the workers. Workers from all 150 cities involved in the campaign were then invited to vote on the date over a Nov. 25 conference call.
The management of Mickey D’s is right when they say these demonstrations aren’t “strikes.” They are targeted at a business model making government support of low wage employees a necessary part of corporate profitability. The protests coming out of events in Missouri are aimed at the racism baked into law enforcement, governance and the economic system.
As a participant in a St. Louis mall protest told USA Today,”This is no longer a protest, it’s an uprising.”
San Diego Protests on Thursday
Three actions are scheduled for December 4th locally.
At 6am fast food workers and supporters will demonstrate at the McDonald’s store located at 5322 El Cajon Blvd.
At 10:30am there will be a “Rally For Wages That Lift Our Families,” meeting in front of NBC Building 225 Broadway (at 3rd).
At 11am rally participants will lead a “Fight for $15 March & Action,” with a march route including four highly symbolic stops with short walks in between. (Maybe they can commandeer a santa to deliver coal and sticks to Jerry Sanders and his cronies at the Chamber of Commerce along the way)
These events are being organized by Raise Up San Diego.
Local Black Friday Protests at WalMart Stores
Four San Diego area WalMart stores saw protesters on Friday as part of the national Black Friday protests.
Outside Walmart in La Mesa, union worker Jose Rodriguez said the company doesn’t let many employees work enough hours to qualify for health care benefits, which he said forces workers to seek out public assistance. He also said the company keeps workers away from their families by opening on Thanksgiving.
“We have major companies like Walmart and major politicians that always talk about family values,” Rodriguez said at a rally outside a La Mesa Walmart store. “But when we really are supposed to support family, so family can be together on holidays, they kind of back off, right? They decide to take the commercial approach and they decide to continue to open shop. It’s essentially all about money.”
Is the Post-Thanksgiving Frenzy Winding Down?
Despite the news accounts and social media videos you may seen about mayhem and compulsive shopping behavior over Thanksgiving weekend, it was actually sort of a dud in terms of meeting retailers’ expectations.
From the New York Times:
Sales, both in stores and online, from Thanksgiving through the weekend were estimated to have dropped 11 percent, to $50.9 billion, from $57.4 billion last year, according to preliminary survey results released Sunday by the National Retail Federation. Sales fell despite many stores’ opening earlier than ever on Thanksgiving Day.
And though many retailers offered the same aggressive discounts online as they did in their stores, the web failed to attract more shoppers or spending over the four-day holiday weekend than it did last year, the group said. The average person who shopped over the weekend spent $159.55 at online retailers, down 10.2 percent from last year.
Over all, 133.7 million people shopped or planned to shop at stores or online over the four-day weekend, 5.2 percent fewer than last year, the federation said. And shoppers spent an average of $380.95 over the four days, 6.4 percent less than the $407.02 they spent last year.
Retailers: “Consumers seem to be spending less.” Media: “Wealth highly concentrated. Wages slipped.” Retailers: “Can’t figure it out.”
— Glenn Fleishman (@GlennF) December 1, 2014
San Diego State Rape Culture in the News
Last week San Diego State joined a growing number of colleges that have suspended Greek social functions this semester, including Clemson University, Emory University, Johns Hopkins University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Virginia and West Virginia University.
A “Take Back the Night” march on November 21st at SDSU was verbally assaulted and the targeted by eggs thrown from passing cars.
Men at Sigma Phi Epsilon, whose members include student body president Jonathan Cole, yelled obscenities. At Delta Sigma Phi, men waved dildos at the marchers.
The following night the seventh rape incident of the fall 2014 semester was reported.
San Diego State University is just the latest school to become publicly embroiled in a scandal involving sexual assault. Besides the aforementioned University of Virginia case, Columbia University senior Emma Sulkowicz made headlines in September for vowing to carry her mattress around campus until her alleged rapist faces punishment. In July, Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York were the subject of a scathing New York Times investigation that concluded the school was “ill prepared to evaluate an allegation so serious that, if proved in a court of law, would be a felony, with a likely prison sentence.”
Meanwhile, 55 schools across the nation are under federal investigation for sexual assault. The Obama administration also recently launched the “It’s On Us” initiative to end sexual assault on campus — a much needed effort given that 19% of undergraduate women have experienced attempted or completed sexual assault since beginning college, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Today UT-San Diego ran a front page report on efforts at SDSU to push back against the rape culture, including this little gem:
In 2002, psychologists David Lisak and Paul M. Brown conducted a landmark survey of 1,882 college men. Their findings were reassuring and distressing.
About 94 percent of the men had never raped anyone, but 120 men admitted to rape or attempted rape. Of these, more than half — 76 — reported numerous instances, averaging 5.8 forced sexual encounters each.
The rapists shared several characteristics, including anger at women, a need to dominate women and a lack of empathy.
Years earlier, a University of Pennsylvania anthropologist had found similar traits in college fraternities: “male bonding and sexual dominance fueled by pornography, heavy drinking, and dehumanizing references to women as sexual objects.”
Earlier in November an inewsource investigation highlighted the difficulty victims of sexual assault face at SDSU in trying to report the crime.
Not So Classy Congressional Staffer Out of a Job
From the Washington Post:
Embattled Hill staffer Elizabeth Lauten has resigned amid a backlash over critical remarks she posted on Facebook Friday about President Obama’s daughters.
Lauten, communications director for Rep. Stephen Lee Fincher (R-Tenn.),came under fire over the weekend after posting derogatory remarks about Sasha and Malia Obama regarding their appearance at the president’s annual Turkey pardoning.
Here’s the now-retracted Facebook post:
“Dear Sasha and Malia, I get your both in those awful teen years but you’re a part of the First Family. Try showing a little class. At least respect the part you play. Then again, your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department.
Rise to the occasion. Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar.”
Lauten has since apologized for the post. The former manager of new media for the Republican National Committee is herself now being ridiculed on Facebook, as a purported “party picture” is making the rounds this morning.
On This Day: 1913 – The Ford Motor Co. introduced the continuous moving assembly line, producing a complete car every two-and-a-half minutes. 1976 – The Sex Pistols appeared on the British TV “Today.” During the interview, profanity was used by the band members. The result was the Sex Pistols being banned in several British cities. 1991 – Ukrainians voted overwhelmingly for independence from the Soviet Union.
Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to “The Starting Line” and get an email every time a new article in this series is posted!
I read the Daily Fishwrap(s) so you don’t have to… Catch “the Starting Line” Monday thru Friday right here at San Diego Free Press (dot) org. Send your hate mail and ideas to DougPorter@SanDiegoFreePress.Org Check us out on Facebook and Twitter.