Fast food workers in the US go on strike today in an action designed to influence the US election.

Striking workers in Little Rock, Arkansas

Striking workers in Little Rock, Arkansas

The Fight for 15 campaign are waging their biggest ever strike in 270 cities, one year from the date of the 2016 US election. Workers are demanding a $15 per hour minimum wage, paid sick days, fair shift scheduling with enough hours, and the right to form unions without fear of victimisation.

The date was chosen as the political climate intensifies and election campaigns heat up. The strike action aims to make decent working conditions for the lowest paid workers an election issue. Workers taking strike action are sending a clear message to political candidates to “come get my vote”. Nearly 64 million Americans are paid less than $15 an hour – a voting bloc that can no longer be ignored.

The campaign is asking members of the public to sign a statement saying:

I’m one of the millions of Americans who believe that if you work hard you should NOT have to struggle to survive.

I’m sick and tired of the rich getting richer, while underpaid workers can’t make ends meet.

I am standing up for $15 an hour and union rights.

Macy's janitors walk off the job in Minneapolis

Macy’s janitors walk off the job in Minneapolis

Global services union UNI reports that “walkouts in a record 270 cities, from Detroit to Denver, in red states, blue states and swing states, will culminate in massive protests outside city halls—local symbols of political power— where fast-food, home care, child care, and other underpaid workers will demand that elected leaders nationwide stand up for $15/hr and union rights.

“In cities like New York and Los Angeles, where workers have already won $15, workers will be striking to reiterate their demand that companies like McDonald’s respect their right to join a union without retaliation, and to show support for McDonald’s and other fast-food workers across the country who are still fighting for $15. In Milwaukee, following the strikes and city hall protest, members of Fight for $15 WI will march on the Republican debate at the Milwaukee Theatre.

“In addition to the strikes and city hall protests, auto parts workers, farmworkers, grocery clerks, FedEx drivers, nursing home workers and others will show their support for the Fight for $15 at hundreds of additional rallies across the country, sending a message to candidates that higher pay and union rights are urgent issues for our country that need to be addressed now.”

The Fight for 15 campaign is a social movement for a $15 per hour federal minimum wage, backed and funded by the Service Employees International Union, which represents 1.5 million workers mostly in the service sector. The campaign has changed the conversation about wages in the US, embarrassing low-wage employers.

There have been a number of city and state-wide successes, with cities like Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York pledging to adopt the $15 wage. The campaign has already influenced the political debate, with Democrat contender Bernie Sanders pledging his support for the wage. Rival Hilary Clinton has praised the campaign, but stopped short of supporting the demands, saying $15 was too much in poorer cities. The current Democrat platform, which Clinton supports, is for a $12 minimum wage.

The campaign has so far focused on fast food and retail, but other unions will be joining the strike action this year.

The campaign has influenced the campaign against precarious work in other countries too, with unions such as Unite, the GMB and the Bakers; Union campaigning for a £10 an hour minimum wage in the UK.

The GMB union staged a series of solidarity demos in support of US workers across the UK today, saying:

“GMB is calling on big brand owners like M&S, Starbucks, Burger King, Caffè Ritazza, Upper Crust, Whistlestop, Millie’s Cookies and other big brands to pay a living wage of £10 per hour, end zero hours contracts and confront bullying managers to bring security to the mainly young workers at outlets in the UK’s railway stations, airports and large shopping centres.

“GMB sister union in the USA the Service Employees International Union is holding a day of action on 10th November to demand a minimum wage of $15 an hour for New York City’s fast food workers. SEIU and GMB fast food members stand in solidarity with each other.”

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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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