The Week That Workers Won (At Least a Little)

July 30, 2014 | | Huffington Post |

Today's economy doesn't contain a lot of good news for working people. While the Great Recession officially ended five years ago, millions of Americans are still out of work and wages continue to lag. Yet this week, working people made some hugely significant gains as the fruits sowed by organizing efforts, lawsuits, legislative action -- and above all, workers standing up for themselves despite tremendous risk -- began to be visible.

The week's most important victory came in a Tuesday ruling by the National Labor Relations Board, which found that McDonald's is a "joint employer" of workers at its franchised restaurants. The NLRB rightly ruled that company so closely controls and oversees its franchisees that the McDonald's corporation, together with the franchisees, can now be held accountable for practices that violate employees' rights. Former NLRB chairwoman Wilma Liebman was quoted in the New York Timesexplaining that the decision could give fast food workers leverage to organize unions and raise wages at McDonald's restaurants nationwide.

The upshot? Fast food workers are a big step closer to winning $15 and a union they have repeatedly gone on strike to attain. And they are energized to win the fight: At their first-ever national convention last weekend, fast food workers vowed to intensify their efforts through non-violent civil disobedience. After all, it's clear that fast food giants like McDonald's can well afford to pay workers more. In fact, research by my Demos colleague Catherine Ruetschlin shows that poverty wages and sky-high pay packages for executives at McDonalds and other fast food corporations have combined to destabilize the companies to such an extent that investors should be concerned.