Low-wage workers strike in Detroit

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 By Detroit FW staff

Almost 1000 low-wage workers, organized by Fight for $15, went on strike on Nov.12, 2019, and took the streets of Detroit, braving record cold temperatures and snow to demand unions for all,  $15/ hour, and an end to sexual harassment. The marchers successfully shutdown a McDonald’s restaurant for an hour.

Several women workers spoke and described sexual harassment at McDonald’s. Days earlier, McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook was fired for an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate. And on the day of the strike, Fight for $15, in partnership with the ACLU and Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, filed a class action lawsuit against McDonald’s for creating a “culture of sexual harassment.”

The lawsuit is the latest allegation of rampant abuse and harassment of women workers at the McDonald’s corporation. More than 50 claims and charges of harassment have been filed by women workers against McDonald’s in the courts and at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Although a majority of McDonald’s restaurants are owned by franchisees, the lawsuit maintains that the fast-food chain has failed to address the “systemic sexual harassment”, thereby enabling it.

In 2017, McDonald’s had an annual revenue $22.8 billion, reported earnings of $5.2 billion, and a market capitalization of $134.5 billion. It operates almost 38,000 restaurants (in 2018)  in over 100 countries, and is the world’s second-largest private employer with 1.7 million workers. In 2017, the average McDonald’s worker that earned $7,000, while the CEO earned $21.8 million, or more than three thousand times more than the average McDonald’s worker.

Low-wage work extends well beyond the fast-food industry. It is an ever growing feature of this capitalist system where wages are kept low in order to satisfy the insatiable appetite for profits demanded by Wall Street. According to a recent report by the Brookings Institute:

An estimated 53 million people—44 percent of all U.S. workers ages 18–64—are low-wage workers. That’s more than twice the number of people in the 10 most populous U.S. cities combined. Their median hourly wage is $10.22, and their median annual earnings are $17,950.

Workers from Great Britain, Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, Brazil, Chile, and other countries across the world joined in a #FastFoodGlobal Day of Action demanding higher wages and a union. It was a global response to a global corporation.

Fight for $15 is showing the way forward to millions of workers in the struggle for higher wages, better working conditions and a union.

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