Why the Left shouldn’t write off low-wage strikes.Struggling through a frigid March rain earlier this year, rounding up carts in the parking lot of the Chicago Whole Foods where I work, one of my bosses stood at the door.
“That weather really sucks,” he said offhandedly. I nodded tersely. “But, hey,” he continued, chuckling. “What are you going to do? Go on strike?”
It made sense that he found the idea of us striking absurd – strikes are at an all-time low, nearly nonexistent in shops like mine, and almost none of my co-workers have ever been in a union. But a month later, we did. Ten Whole Foods workers walked off the job to protest a draconian attendance policy and poverty wages, along with 200 fast food and retail workers across the city and thousands across the country.
Low-wage fast food and retail workers took center stage for the American labor movement this summer. The Fight for 15 (FF15) campaign went public last November, then erupted earlier this spring, as workers walked off the job in New York, then Chicago, then St. Louis, Milwaukee, Detroit, and Seattle. Seven cities organized a second week of one-day strikes at the end of July. Then, on August 29, 62 cities and more than 1,000 workers struck around two principal demands: $15 an hour minimum wage and the right to form a union without retaliation.
We are part of a new generation of workers rediscovering our strongest weapons: the union and the...