“NYC isn’t the only place fast food workers are in revolt. Today’s strike follows a founding convention held earlier this month by an linked organization, the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago. WWOC claims 200-some members in fast food and retail. Its most dramatic actions took place on Black Friday, when workers leafleted and demonstrated at major companies and dropped a banner inside of Macy’s (they also joined pickets in support of local Wal-Mart workers). “We’re getting all the workers together and we’re standing up against CEOs,” said WOCC member Brittney Smith. “Because there’s more workers than there are CEOs.” Smith, a college student who recently quit her job at the retail chain Express and took a similar job at American Apparel, said she now makes $8.75 an hour. “Some of the time I luck out and I can eat two meals a day,” she said. “But most of the time, I’m eating one.”
Like FFWC in New York, WOCC is a new independent union made up of workers tied together by a shared city and similarly low wages, not a single employer. Both FFWC and WOCC are backed by unions and labor community groups, and so far aren’t recognized by any employers. And they’re making the same demands: allow a fair process for unionization and start paying $15 an hour. Organizers say that could be achieved through union contracts with individual companies, or through joint bargaining with several employers at once. Either way, it’s a heavy lift.
The New York and Chicago campaigns evoke two strategies that have been long debated but infrequently attempted in U.S. labor. First, “minority unionism”: mobilizing workers to take dramatic actions and make demands on management prior to showing support from the majority of employees. Second, “geographic organizing”: collaboration between multiple unions to organize workers at several employers and win public support for raising a region’s standards through unionization. This campaign is also the latest example in which community-based organizing groups, which unions have long leaned on to drum up support for workers, are playing a major role in directly organizing workers to win union recognition.”