Biggest-Ever Fast Food Strike Today! Thousands to Walk Out across 100 Cities

December 5, 2013 | | Salon |

Thousands of fast food workers plan to walk off the job in 100 U.S. cities today, a major escalation in labor’s strongest-ever challenge to an industry that’s become ever more central to the present and future of U.S. work. One year after a surprise work stoppage by 200 New York City fast food workers, two questions raised by that first-of-its-kind walkout have already been answered: Could workers sustain and grow their numbers in the months after returning to the job? And could they spread their siege of the industry from comparatively labor-friendly New York City to presumably less hospitable environs across the United States? What remains unclear is whether they can compel the giants of the increasingly dominant fast food industry to concede power to employees, and at what cost. [...]

So far there aren’t any signs that McDonald’s, Burger King or Yum Brands is poised to come to SEIU or anyone else with a deal. What started as a strike of 200 in one city, and is expected to today turn out thousands in a hundred cities, may need to grow exponentially again before such a prospect is truly conceivable. “I know it’s not going to be, you know, next month or next year that our raise[s] go up,” Crystal Travis told me before going on strike. “But at least we’ll be heard. And it might make a lot more people next time go, ‘Well, I’m going next time,’ or ‘I need to find out about this,’ like I did.”

If that does come to pass, and labor’s challenge to America’s fast food leviathans proves lasting and muscular enough that bosses seek a deal, what kind would be good enough to take? Last month (on a panel at Demos – video below), I told KFC worker-activist Naquashia LeGrand, one of the original fast food strikers, about my conversation with Henry and Courtney, and asked what level of compromise she’d be willing to accept. “Honestly,” she answered to applause, “compromise is not in my book. It’s more – it’s winning. I’m a winner, you know. So I would want to win our $15 and a union.”