If the U.S. labor movement is going to get back on its feet, it looks as though fast food and retail workers may be the first off the ground. Following a series of strikes at Walmart and several New York fast food chains, fast food and retail workers in Chicago staged rolling strikes this week. Their campaign, Fight for 15, is pressing to raise wages for workers earning as little as $8 per hour in a city where the average one bedroom apartment currently rents for more than $1500 per month.
This is a matter of social justice: the owners and top executives of companies like McDonald’s, Walmart, and Forever 21 make millions in profit from the labor of workers who struggle for basic subsistence. But there are material interests at stake here for workers who aren’t at the very bottom. As Lawrence Mishel’s research has shown, union organizing and collective bargaining have the effect of raising wages and improving working conditions for all workers – not just those who belong to unions. No matter where you work, if you work for wages, you have an interest in the success of organizing campaigns like Fight for 15.