In Drive to Unionize, Fast-Food Workers Walk Off the Job

In Drive to Unionize, Fast-Food Workers Walk Off the Job

By

Check the article in today’s NYT about the SEIU’s efforts to unionize fast food workers. 

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/29/nyregion/drive-to-unionize-fast-food-workers-opens-in-ny.html 

A few excerpts are pasted below.  Check the NYT for the full article and others of interest.

Fast-food workers at several restaurants in New York walked off the job on Thursday, firing the first salvo in what workplace experts say is the biggest effort to unionize fast-food workers ever undertaken in the United States.

The campaign — backed by community and civil rights groups, religious leaders and a labor union — has engaged 40 full-time organizers in recent months to enlist workers at McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Domino’s, Taco Bell and other fast-food restaurants across the city.

Leaders of the effort said that workers were walking off the job to protest what they said were low wages and retaliation against several workers who have backed the unionization campaign.  (NOTE FROM HOWARD:  any sort of third-party or employee “public” protest is going to include “claims of retaliation” and “whistleblowers.” )

They said it would be the first multi-restaurant strike by fast-food workers in American history, although it was unclear how many workers would walk off the job.

 The first walkout took place at 6:30 a.m. at a McDonald’s at Madison Avenue and 40th Street, where several dozen striking workers and supporters chanted: “Hey, hey, what do you say? We demand fair pay.” An organizer of the unionizing campaign said that 14 of the 17 employees scheduled to work the morning shift had gone on strike. 

…..

 The new campaign aims in part to raise low-end wages and reduce income inequality, and is also an uphill battle to win union recognition. (NOTE FROM HOWARD:  Expect to see these Occupy Wallstreet-type themes gain more use.)

….

Christine C. Quinn, the speaker of the New York City Council who has struggled with various measures intended to improve wages and working conditions in the city, expressed support for fast-food workers.  (ANOTHER COMMON TACTIC).

“I support fast food restaurant workers’ rights to organize and fight for decent wages,’’ Ms. Quinn wrote in a Twitter message on Thursday morning.  (NOTE THE ROLE OF SOCIAL MEDIA.)

Jonathan Westin, organizing director at New York Communities for Change, a community group that is playing a central role in the effort, said hundreds of workers had already voiced support for the campaign, called Fast Food Forward.

….

Mr. Westin said the campaign was using techniques that differed from those in most unionization drives, and was still developing overall strategy. He declined to say whether it would pursue unionization through elections or by getting workers to sign a majority of cards backing a union.

McDonald’s issued a statement about the incipient unionization push. “McDonald’s values our employees and has consistently remained committed to them, so in turn they can provide quality service to our customers,” the company said.

It added that the company had an “an open dialogue with our employees” and always encouraged them to express any concerns “so we can continue to be an even better employer.” McDonald’s noted that most of its restaurants were owned and operated by franchisees “who offer pay and benefits competitive within the” industry.

….

Even with a union, it might be hard to obtain wages of $15 an hour, and many employers say they would most likely employ fewer workers if they had to pay that much.

Mr. Westin’s group, New York Communities for Change, has played a major role in the recent uptick in unionizing low-wage workers in New York, many of whom are immigrants. In the past year, his group, working closely with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and other organizations, has helped win unionization votes at four carwashes and six supermarkets in New York.  (MY EMPHASIS ADDED.)

The sponsors of the fast-food campaign also include UnitedNY.org, the Black Institute and the Service Employees International Union, a powerful union that is playing a quiet but important role behind the scenes.

Several religious leaders are backing the effort.

….

“I feel I deserve $15 an hour,” said Ms. Archer, 59. “I work very hard.” She said she hoped a union would deliver affordable health insurance and paid sick days.

“My hope is we can all come together in a union without being intimidated,” she said.

TCB Management, the franchisee that operates Mr. Hall’s McDonald’s, and Lewis Foods, which runs Ms. Archer’s, did not respond to inquiries.

Tim McIntyre, a Domino’s Pizza spokesman, said the few efforts to unionize its stores and drivers had fallen flat.

“It’s a fairly high-turnover position, so there’s never been a successful union effort,” he said. “People who are doing this part time, seasonally or as they work their way through college don’t find much interest in membership.”

Richard W. Hurd, a labor relations professor at Cornell, said the organizations backing the fast-food campaign seemed intent on finding pressure points to push the restaurants to improve wages and benefits.

“But it’s going to be a lot harder for them to win union recognition,” he said. “It will be harder to unionize them than carwash workers because the parent companies will fight hard against it, because they worry if you unionize fast-food outlets in New York, that’s going to have a lot of ramifications elsewhere.”

Nate Schweber contributed reporting.

About mavity2012

I am a Senior Partner operating out of the Atlanta office of Fisher & Phillips LLP, one of the Nation’s oldest and largest management employment and labor firms. My practice is national and keeps me on the road or in one of our 28 offices about 50 percent of the time. I created and co-chair the Firm's Workplace Safety and Catastrophe Management Practice Group. I have almost 29 years of experience as a labor lawyer, but rely even more heavily on the experience I gained in working in my family's various businesses, and through dealing with practical client issues. Employers tell me that they seldom meet an attorney who delivers on his promise to provide practical guidance and to be a business partner. As a result, some executives probably use different terms than “practical” to describe my fellow travelers in the profession. I don't enjoy the luxury of being impractical because I spend much of my time on shop floors and construction sites dealing with safety, union and related issues which are driven by real world processes and the need to protect and get the most out of one's most important business assets ... its employees. That's one of the reasons that I view safety compliance as a way to also manage problem employees, reduce litigation and develop the type of work environment that makes unions unnecessary. Starting out dealing with union-management challenges and a stint in the NLRB have better equipped me to see the interrelationship of legal and workplace factors. I am proud also of my experience at Fisher & Phillips, where providing “practical advice” is second only to legal excellence among the Firm’s values. Our website lists me as having provided counsel for over 225 occasions of union activity, guided unionized companies, and as having managed approximately 450 OSHA fatality cases in construction and general industry, ranging from dust explosions to building collapses, in virtually every state. I have coordinated complex inspections involving multi-employer sites, corporate-wide compliance, and issues involving criminal referral. As a full labor lawyer, I oversee audits of corporate labor, HR, and safety compliance. I have responded to virtually every type of day-to-day workplace inquiry, and have handled cases before the EEOC, OFCCP, NLRB, and numerous other state and federal agencies. At F & P, all of us seek to spot issues and then rely upon attorneys in the Firm who concentrate on those areas. No tunnel vision. I teach or speak around 50 times per year to business associations, bar and professional groups, and to individual businesses. I serve on safety committees at three states’ AGC Chapters, teach at the AGC ASMTC
This entry was posted in hospitality, retail, unions and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s