Aljazeera America reports that 1,300 fast food workers from across the U.S. have gathered in Chicago to organize and fight for an increased minimum wage. They want more than more money. The workers are also seeking the protection that comes from being part of a union. Their efforts will set an example for workers in other industries, even middle class professionals who have seen small salary increases over the past few years. Low wage workers are leading the way.
We hear all the time about greedy unions. Do workers want more money? Sure. So do CEOs. The corporate media ignores other issues that unions and working people care about. For example, class size and school closing were a major concern for striking teachers in Chicago. Similarly, SEIU is taking action against Providence Health & Services, which is changing healthcare coverage and transferring more cost to workers.
According to Greg Kaufmann writing in The Nation (Common Dreams), family coverage has increased from $750 to $3,000. This isn’t just a salary issue. If a large (5 state) not-for-profit like Providence can make this decision, what sane for-profit company will not follow suit? SEIU is standing up for a social good. That’s not greed. It’s a commitment to justice.
The Los Angeles Times reports that SEIU janitors have walked off the job after 16 janitors were laid off by buildings that host successful talent agencies. The company that hired the workers is flush with cash. Chase Bank, the owner of the building, has paid its executives big bonuses – why can’t it find a few bucks to keep 16 janitors working?
Simple answer: Greed. American corporations are crying poor and blaming President Obama for putting restrictions on them at a time when they are banking huge profits. The cliché we hear again and again is that corporation “give” jobs. Over the past few decades, they’ve moved – offshored – as many jobs as possible to whatever country will offer the cheapest labor.
The janitors in L.A. are fighting back – as did teachers and transit workers in Chicago. Working people need to resist attempts to drive down wages, and they need to stand together against the investor class that only cares about itself. It’s easy to blame labor. Let’s look at people running the companies, those who profit by putting their fellow citizens out of work.