As fast food businesses and consumers throughout the United States and around the world prepare for Thursday’s planned strike to call for higher wages for industry workers, two labor movement experts from Cornell University’s ILR School and the Worker Institute at Cornell call the action a unique type of labor strike and a potential step forward for social justice.
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Lowell Turner, an expert on the global labor movement, social movements and alt-labor, ILR School professor and director of the Worker Institute at Cornell, places the minimum wage campaigns as part of a broader mobilization for policy reform.
Turner says: “The best way to tackle growing inequality is to push up wages at the low end. “The importance of the fast food movement is its contribution to a broader social movement that includes alt-labor, traditional unions and a broad range of social justice allies. These are the forces behind minimum wage campaigns around the country.
“The pressure of a broader movement – at home and abroad – can both push up the low end and lay the groundwork for a broader mobilization for policy reform such as progressive taxation, to challenge inequality from both top and bottom.”
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Ken Margolies, a New York City-based labor and collective bargaining specialist and senior associate at the Worker Institute at Cornell, stresses that fast food strikes are different from traditional labor strikes.
Margolies says: “While traditionally strikes are effective when the employer is not able to function enough to continue profitable operations, these strikes are part of a long-term strategy to make the issue of low pay for workers but high profits for the industry an unavoidable embarrassment to the fast food industry. “The key to the effectiveness of these strikes is constantly building in size and influence until the industry feels pressure from the publicity, the public and lawmakers to raise wages.”
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