(Chicago, IL) – More than 1,300 fast-food workers from across the country unanimously passed a resolution Saturday to “do whatever it takes,” including striking and engaging in civil disobedience, to win $15 and a union (full text of resolution below). The vote came during a two-day nationwide convention of fast-food workers, the first of its kind, outside Chicago, IL.
“The fight for $15 and a union is the civil rights struggle of today. We’re prepared to do whatever it takes, even if it involves personal risk, to win,” said Laquita Jackson, 33, who has worked at McDonald’s in Memphis, TN for 10 years and makes $8.10 an hour. “Winning justice didn’t come easy for Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks or Cesar Chavez and it won’t come easy for us. But being at the convention, surrounded by thousands of fast-food workers just as dedicated as me, I know that we are going to win.”
Fed up with the industry’s refusal to listen to them, workers at the convention discussed strategies to escalate their campaign, which in only a year and a half has changed the politics of the nation. Workers attended sessions on civil disobedience and leadership training, applying past movements for racial and economic justice to today, and building power in local communities.
Rev. Dr. William Barber II, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and SEIU President Mary Kay Henry all addressed the electrified hall. Since its launch, the fast-food campaign has garnered support from numerous elected officials, prominent religious and civil rights leaders, and the public. Last week, the NAACP unanimously backed the workers’ fight for $15 at their annual convention.
“I’m inspired by what you’re doing. Your movement is big, and your movement is changing America for the better,” said Rev. Dr. William Barber II, head of the North Carolina NAACP and leader of the state’s Moral Monday’s movement, who addressed the workers Saturday. “The denial of your rights is morally indefensible, constitutionally inconsistent and economically insane. That’s why this movement is so important: you’re not just fighting for your own living wages, you’re trying to teach America how to live, and to regain a moral compass. And working together, we will win.”
Since fast-food workers first walked off their jobs in New York City in November 2012, the campaign has spread to every corner of the country – and globe. The workers’ calls for $15 – once considered implausible – is today the benchmark for cities and states around the country.
“When this movement started 21 months ago, people thought $15 an hour was a fantasy. They laughed at you,” said SEIU President Mary Kay Henry to a packed crowd Friday night. “Now, because of your courage and hard work, it will become a reality. You made it a reality for workers in Seattle, for school employees in Los Angeles, for hospital workers in Baltimore. You – the fast-food worker movement – are helping to build the largest, most inclusive, most united, most determined movement for working families that modern America has ever seen.”
While Congress dithers, local elected officials and businesses are increasingly taking steps to raise wages. Seattle recently passed a $15 minimum wage, and cities from San Francisco to Chicago to Los Angeles are adopting the fast-food workers’ rallying cry.
In total, more than 6.7 million workers have seen their wages increased since the fast-food workers’ movement began. All 13 states that have raised their minimum wage in 2014 have had stronger employment growth than the 37 states that did not, according to a recent report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Companies like GAP that have raised wages say they are already seeing benefits, as well.
“There is nothing more important than what you’re doing right now,” Rep. Ellison (D-MN) told fast-food workers on Saturday. “Millions of people across this country are thinking about you in Chicago and hoping you keep up this fight. And we’ll continue to march with you until you win $15 and a union."
Despite overwhelming public support for raising wages and economic evidence that higher wages boosts businesses’ bottom line and spurs the economy, fast-food companies refuse to take action.
At McDonald’s recent annual shareholder meeting, where 101 workers were arrested, McDonald’s claimed it pays “fair wages” and provides “first jobs for those entering the workforce.” Yet the average fast-food salary is less than $9 an hour, and the median age of fast-food workers is 29 years old, and 32 for females. More than 1 in 4 are workers raising children.
“These fast-food corporations are destroying my family,” said Terrence Wise, 34 and a father of three, who has worked for Burger King in Kansas City for 10 years. “That’s why I’m willing to do whatever it takes. These companies can put handcuffs on us, but they can’t make our hearts stop beating. Whatever it takes, all of us together, are going to win $15 and a union.”
Full text of the unanimously adopted resolution below:
Resolution: We Are Sticking Together for $15 and a Union
We are more than 1,300 fast food workers and leaders who are building a movement to make our jobs better, lift our families, and build an economy that works for all of us.
We have come from over 50 metropolitan areas in the United States to Chicago to meet, build community, reflect on the progress made in the past 21 months, recommit ourselves to our demands and our struggle, and chart the future of our movement.
We stand united for:
1. A $15 hour wage floor for fast food workers. It is wrong that we are paid so little that we struggle to afford basic necessities like groceries, rent, and transportation. Boosting our pay will strengthen our purchasing power in our communities, which will put enough money in our pockets for us to invest more in our neighborhoods, create more jobs, and build more broadly-shared prosperity.
2. Our freedom to stick together in a union without retaliation. If one of us speaks out as an individual, we are ignored by the corporations that employ us. But when we speak out together in the thousands—when we speak as a union—we are heard. The powerful corporations that employ us should not try to take away our right to stick together. These companies should not try to limit our power by attempting to stop us from uniting.
We are determined to win for our children and ourselves. Together, we will:
Strike when we need to be heard. By going on strike, we have spread the word that fast food workers are hungry for a better life. Our strikes have forced our elected representatives and the massive corporations that dominate our industry to begin to take us seriously. When it again becomes necessary, we will continue to stand up with each other by going on strike.
Step up our campaign to build a better future. We stand on the shoulders of the movements of the past that have transformed America into a more just society. The people who fought for that change worked together to make our country better, whether they were workers standing up for a better life or ordinary people standing up to free ourselves of injustice or oppression. Like those who came before us, we areready to engage in non-violent direct action if is necessary to make large corporations hear us.
Adopted by unanimous consent by the delegates to the 2014 Fight for 15 Convention.