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Milwaukee workers talk about making ends meet in low-wage jobs.
Fast food workers in yet another city have walked out for a one-day strike, seeking better wages and the right to form unions. Milwaukee is the fifth city hit by such a strike in the past six weeks; there as in Chicago, retail workers are also joining the strike. The strategy is the same as in New York, Chicago, St. Louis and Detroit: A one-day strike by as many workers in any given store are ready to walk out, with community support not just at the time of the strike but the next day as workers return to their jobs. The complaints are the same, too:
Milwaukee Burger King employee Tessie Harrell says she earned the state minimum wage of $7.25 an hour from 2008 through 2012, even after she was promoted to shift supervisor in 2011. Last year, she got a raise to $8.25 an hour. But she says that's not enough to pay the $650 monthly rent on her two-bedroom apartment and support her six children.

"I can't afford to buy my kids shoes," says Harrell, 34, who gets food stamps and $150 a month from her mother. "There's no way I should be struggling to make ends meet."

When a worker is on food stamps, that's an employer that is relying on taxpayers to augment wages, to bring workers up to the bare minimum they need to survive. Full-time work at $8.25 an hour—a full dollar above the federal minimum wage—still leaves a family of three below the poverty level.

This wave of strikes hitting multiple fast food restaurants (and, in some cases, retail stores) in a single city for a day, then showing up in another city, is truly unprecedented. Shoot, the first New York City strike back in November was unprecedented. While it remains to be seen whether these actions, or the organizing and actions up and down the Walmart supply chain, will have an effect, the simple fact that low-wage workers are fighting back against the poverty and routine intimidation they face is deeply inspiring. What other workers should be thinking about following their lead?

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Wed May 15, 2013 at 07:18 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Has there been any negative (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sark Svemes, prishannah, Puddytat

    repercussions for the workers?

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Wed May 15, 2013 at 07:46:12 AM PDT

  •  This is great. It needs to spread to hundreds of (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    prishannah, blogpotato, Puddytat

    cities around the country, with rolling strikes, slow-downs, picketing by activists together with the workers, sending out press releases, spreading information about it on social media.

  •  Public pressure is essential (5+ / 0-)

    to prevent these employers from disciplining the strikers.  

    Great to see this expanding.

    Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity. Notes on a Theory

    by David Kaib on Wed May 15, 2013 at 11:08:41 AM PDT

  •  We need to spend more money on job training, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tangerinegirl20, prishannah, Puddytat

    and employment programs, so that so many people are not dependent on flipping burgers to support themselves and their families.  That this type of strike has to occur is symptomatic of more than just low wages for low skill level jobs.  Those jobs will never pay well.  They don't warrant high hourly wages.  These are jobs that should be held by young kids and seniors, looking for a little extra cash, not the sole breadwinners of households.  

     

    The patellar reflex is a deep tendon reflex which allows one to keep one's balance with little effort or conscious thought.

    by SpamNunn on Wed May 15, 2013 at 11:48:44 AM PDT

    •  So where are Walker's good paying Jobs? (5+ / 0-)

      He talks a great deal about job preparedness, but for what jobs? WI's job creation is in the toilet WEDC has been a hoot.  Job training for those who can't even get to the jobs works so well when west siders torpedoed public transit from where the unemployed live and where the jobs are.  I guess they want to keep the jobs all for themselves.

    •  "Those jobs will never pay well. " (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mjshep, twoodard

      also said about every job that ever paid poorly, but once unionized, paid well.  

      Job training doesn't create jobs.

      Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity. Notes on a Theory

      by David Kaib on Wed May 15, 2013 at 01:05:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  There will never be a (0+ / 0-)

        "United Brotherhood of Burger Flippers".   The margins are too thin to ever allow for the possibility of the unionization of a low skill job like that.  

        The patellar reflex is a deep tendon reflex which allows one to keep one's balance with little effort or conscious thought.

        by SpamNunn on Wed May 15, 2013 at 01:15:43 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Seems to me (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          David Kaib, mjshep, badscience

          Farm workers who picked the tomatoes on those burgers organized!  Rather than a rolling work-out, a more expansive effort is necessary.  Cash flow disruption may raise attention.  Pick a city and nuke all fast food outlets, even if it's just the morning rush.  Wage isn't the only thing to organize around.

          •  I wish the workers well, (0+ / 0-)

            but I don't know that this is the best economy in which to start striking -- I mean strategy-wise.  Until unemployment is considerably lower, the employers hold the high cards.  Low income is infinitely better than no income -- at least that was my experience when I was younger and had a family to support.

            A wise man hears one word and understands two.

            by Not A Bot on Wed May 15, 2013 at 03:16:39 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  This. 1000x this. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        David Kaib

        100 years ago being a longshoreman was a shitty low paying dangerous job that only the desperate would take. You know what finally smashed that business model? The workers unionized and shut down the docks, same with manufacturing. Good paying manufacturing jobs didn't just spring into being they were created through decades of struggle.

        And for the record, as to the fast food industy; McDonalds alone made a net profit of $1.27 billion dollars last year, on revenues of $6.59 billion. That seems to be a pretty healthy margin to me.

  •  What other workers should be thinking about (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blogpotato, Puddytat

    following their lead?  

    Anyone who takes home a pay check.  The Corporatists won't rest until they have it all.

  •  Atlas Shrugged; just like the book ! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Puddytat
    The book explores a dystopian United States where many of society's most productive citizens refuse to be exploited

     ---Wikipedia

    Notice: This Comment © 2013 ROGNM

    by ROGNM on Wed May 15, 2013 at 11:56:42 AM PDT

  •  Seriously? 6 Kids at 34? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mjshep

    Sorry, anyone who decides to have 6 kids by age 34 is asking to be poor.  Does she have a supportive partner?   Wasn't it hard for her to make ends meet with 2 kids making minimum wage?  Yet, she has 4 more?  Jeez, can we use as an example two partners with two kids who are doing the right thing (tm), graduated from high school, and not making enough to scrape by?  At least they will get more sympathy.  

    •  The blog you are looking for is ----> (0+ / 0-)

      Blaming the victims is what the RW does.

      Nobody that works at a job should be poor.  And those who can't find a job shouldn't have to live in a cardboard box under a bridge.  Nobody.

      We ought to be the country we proclaim ourselves to be.

      There already is class warfare in America. Unfortunately, the rich are winning.

      by Puddytat on Wed May 15, 2013 at 01:06:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  This is not simply blaming the victim (0+ / 0-)

        Face it, absent some unusual circumstances, say her doctor husband died with no insurance or ran off with the nurse to Switzerland and took everything, Being single and having six children and no reasonable way to support them is irresponsible.

        Even if she made $12 or even $15 an hour, which I think would be not unreasonable and ought to be fought for, and would provide a minimum but decent living wage for most, she would not be able to support six kids.  In that case her poverty is partly her choice.

        If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy. ~James Madison

        by mjshep on Wed May 15, 2013 at 02:10:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  We don't need sympathy (0+ / 0-)

      we need solidarity.

      Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity. Notes on a Theory

      by David Kaib on Wed May 15, 2013 at 01:06:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The same thing crossed my mind, too, Porico (0+ / 0-)

      Other people's procreational choices aren't my business, but it seems that having six kids (and it sounds like only one parent, and probably without the skills to obtain better-paying work) pretty much guarantees financial hardship.

      I know people in similar situations.  I help them by contributing to the county food bank, and now and then pay a utility bill or help with car repairs, just because I can.  But sometimes I inwardly shake my head because I know that next year, it'll be seven kids.  In most cases, I feel more pity for the children than for the parents.  Sad, really, and I don't know that there is any realistic long-term fix for people who seem determined to sabotage their own lives.

      Then again, maybe the woman mentioned in the diary started off with a better job and a spouse, and things went sour and she ended up struggling in this economy.  That happens.

      A wise man hears one word and understands two.

      by Not A Bot on Wed May 15, 2013 at 03:31:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Bravo for the workers. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Puddytat

    It's up to them to fight the corporatists alone. They won't get any help from this WH. The won't get much help from today's Democratic Party. And worse still, they won't get much than talk from today's union leaders.

  •  In their infancy, most unions looked (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    prishannah

    to be fighting against all odds.  That this effort is expanding is heartwarming.  Yes, job training would be great, but these folks  have had few opportunities for that and are in fact "stuck" in these jobs as major breadwinners.  I support them and applaud them in their efforts.

    The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy Office & Scotch Tape Shoppe: Meeting your conspiracy and adhesive needs with Jack and a Beck's back

    by blogpotato on Wed May 15, 2013 at 01:03:39 PM PDT

  •  Yeah (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blogpotato, badscience

    I wish I knew which one they were striking at so I could drive over and give them some support.

    There already is class warfare in America. Unfortunately, the rich are winning.

    by Puddytat on Wed May 15, 2013 at 01:06:59 PM PDT

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