Though Donald Trump’s election has many restaurant workers fearing his policies will be a blow to workers’ rights, union groups say they aren’t backing down. In a conference call on Monday, a group of workers announced plans for what they called “their most disruptive strike and protest yet” — a November 29 walk-off/protest at airports and fast-food restaurants around the country. The workers, members of the Fight for $15 organization, say their demands remain unchanged: a $15-an-hour wage and the right to form a union without the threat of retaliation.
“Fight for $15 will not back down” in the face of President-elect Donald Trump, said Terrance Wise, a McDonald’s worker on the Monday call. Instead, the organization will “continue to demand that employers pay us a living wage, also let politicians know that any efforts to block minimum wage increases...support racists or racist policies, and deport immigrants” will be fought harder than ever before.
On November 29, workers at a slew of businesses — including more than 320 restaurants around the country and 20 airports — will stage protests. At Chicago O’Hare, airport workers will walk off their jobs and strike, they say, until they are granted higher wages. Thousands of fast-food cooks and cashiers will also walk off their jobs, say organizers, “risking arrest via mass civil disobedience” as they protest in front of their workplaces in cities throughout the U.S.
“Our message to President-elect Trump [and other elected officials] is that 64 million workers in the country make less than $15 an hour and we are not backing off,” said Wise, adding that elected officials and companies employing low-wage workers “must act decisively to pay a better wage.”
Wise added that the group would not “stand by and and watch our country torn apart by racism, sexism,” threats of deportation, and threats to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.
“On November 8, our fight got tougher but it only recommitted our resolve,” said Kendall Fells, organizing director of Fight for $15. “Just because the election went a certain way doesn't mean we’re going away — just the opposite.”
Though many restaurant workers see the election of Donald Trump as a blow to workers’ rights, Fells says his group is energized by the passage of five ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage in different parts of the country. “Even as Donald Trump won, all five ballot initiatives to raise wages passed,” said Fells. “Votes for those initiatives exceeded the total votes for either of the major party candidates.”
But just because Trump is grabbing most of the headlines lately doesn’t mean he is enemy number one for the Fight for $15. “When you look and see that all of the wage initiatives passed, [it’s clear that] raising the minimum wage and economic equality is number one,” said Fells. “Donald Trump is [at the forefront] but Republicans in congress, GOP state legislatures, McDonalds’s ... they’re who our message is directed to.”
As for whether he thinks Trump will be supportive of a minimum wage increase, Fells said: “I think it’s hard to say. He’s been all over the place. At one point he said wages are too high across the country, and then he said $10.10.”
The strike and protests will take place on November 29 to coincide with the Fight for $15’s four-year-anniversary. The organization’s representatives would not comment on the specific restaurants that would be targeted as part of the strike (other than McDonald’s), or whether workers in airports would be protesting inside or outside airport terminals. Regardless, airports like O’Hare might suffer from longer than usual travel delays and general service disruptions due to the strikes.
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