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Labor Power Challenging Four Decades of Trickle-down Economics
Fast Food Industry Deal Negotiated in California
As the California Legislature winds down its session, a newly introduced bill aims to avert a bruising ballot box battle in 2024 between organized labor and fast food corporations. Technically speaking, the two sides are still in show down mode, but today’s news coverage is a strong indication that a deal has been made.
There are terms and conditions, and corporate entities could still back out. But if the deal stands, foodservice workers in larger franchise run locations will have a $20 per hour wage floor starting in April, 2024.
Although early media coverage has described the pay increase as a $5 hike (from the state’s minimum wage, currently set at $15.50), the current median wage for fast food workers is actually closer to $19 per hour.
The industry now won’t face penalties for labor law violations at the franchisee level, and will withdraw an already-qualified referendum aimed at undoing a landmark law regulating the industry.
The deal would require a fast food council stipulated in the original legislation to meet for the first time by March 15, with nine members instead of ten. Two state government representatives would become non-voting members and a “member of the public” would join the council.
Its final make up would include two fast food workers, two labor representatives, two fast food industry representatives and two fast food franchise owners.
Also, the proposed council will have the power to write rules applying wages at more restaurants — those belonging to a chain with at least 60 locations nationally, compared with 100 locations stipulated in the 2022 law– but will be limited to making recommendations rather than ordering workplace rules.
Annual increases in the fast food minimum wage could be mandated by up to 3.5% or the change in the U.S. consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers, whichever is lower.
A new law, signed by Gov. Newsom just last week, enabled the deal, creating a process for proponents of a referendum to withdraw their measure until 131 days before its scheduled election. This brings state law regarding referendums in line with the process for withdrawing statewide initiatives.
As it stands now referendum for the November 2024 ballot can be pulled off until June 27th. Restaurant industry representatives have said they intend to withdraw their referendum shortly after the law is signed by Gov. Newsom.
The election law change could enable another negotiated settlement with the oil industry over an already qualified referendum challenging a 3,200-foot drilling setback around homes, schools and health care facilities. (Can we include some jail time for dirty energy lobbyists?)
The compromise between labor and the fast food industry did not occur in a vacuum.
Organized labor is on a roll now, with the Teamsters having negotiated a substantially better deal with UPS, along with ongoing strikes in the entertainment and hotel industry drawing public support.
Popular figures in the entertainment industry (except Drew Barrymore) are making their labor issues and the greed of modern corporations accessible to the public.
Workers at Kaiser Permanente are voting to authorize a strike, the United Auto Workers can walk off the job starting in a few days, and labor actions are surging nationwide.
Via the New York Times:
More workers were on strike in the United States in July than at any time since at least January 2021, according to the Cornell-ILR Labor Action Tracker. There were 205,000 U.S. workers on strike in July, the tracker says; a year earlier there were just 8,000.
Public opinion supporting unions has swung to highs not seen in over half a century, according to Gallup. Smart organizing by teacher’s unions in Chicago and Los Angeles included public outreach, somewhat mitigating the usual news media’s narrow framing on labor actions.
Historically low unemployment rates along with the pandemic have altered the balance of power between employers and employees, leading to an improved environment for union organizing. Recent actions by the Biden administration have given hope to organizing efforts in industries determined to keep unions out, like Starbucks and Amazon.
I’ll reach back into my daily news clips (oh, my! It was just yesterday) to an article from Bloomberg News about worker dissatisfaction in the retail industry. Headline: US Retail Workers Are Fed Up and Quitting at Record Rates:
Low pay, erratic schedules and monotonous tasks have long been a challenge for the nearly 8 million Americans working in retail, but the pandemic years have added a host of taxing new duties. Employees must cope with an uptick in shoplifting and customer orneriness. They manage online orders and run up and down the aisles to unlock items as quotidian as toothpaste.
A 2022 McKinsey study found that the quit rate for retail workers is more than 70% higher than in other US industries. And the Covid years made the problem worse. Before 2020, turnover for part-time retail employees — who make up the bulk of the in-store work force — hovered around 75%, according to data from Korn Ferry. Since then it’s shot up to 95% and hasn’t budged, which has at times led to understaffed stores.
The lousy workplace conditions faced by public facing workers overlaps with the continuing increase in the gap between wages and productivity, and the culture wars being waged as a tactic in the strategy to enable an authoritarian state.
Predictably, the Bloomberg article focuses on employee challenges relating to shoplifters, giving frequent hate-crime type customer behavior the short shift. Not mentioned at all is the much larger issue of wage theft, which is by far the most common type of theft in the United States.
Overall, it is estimated that wage theft accounts for over three times as much economic loss annually as all other types of theft (bank robberies, shoplifting, credit card fraud, etc.) combined.
Shoplifting/gangs raiding stores media accounts are copaganda, plain and simple. We’re regularly being fed accounts of mass shoplifting or homeless people engaging in theft, accompanied by a law enforcement source bemoaning the lack of resources to arrest the dastardly thieves. And if we’re (not) lucky, a mention of prison reform enabling thieves gets thrown in at no extra charge.
“Shrinkage” (overall inventory loss) in retail compared to sales actually declined a teeny bit since the pandemic. It’s important to note that shoplifting is actually the smallest part of the shrinkage equation, the larger two being employee theft and accounting errors.
The arc of the story of labor/worker power is huge, encompassing thousands of scenarios, millions of workers and all-too-often a history of betrayal by both friends and foes.
I wish I could tell you about all the union actions in San Diego, but information available to the general public is scarce and hard to come by.
I know from social media that the UFCW (United Food Service and Commercial Workers) has been busy trying to have a say in the proposed merger between Albertsons and Kroger’s and is involved in organizing employees of retail pot stores.
I know from media accounts that the California Teachers Association has made fighting extremist attacks on education a priority. (This is extremely important!)
I know from Xitter that UNITE HERE Local 30 is calling for a boycott of the U.S. Grant Hotel and is urging all customers to not eat, sleep, or meet at the hotel until such time as it allows a fair process free of intimidation and retaliation for workers who might wish to form a union.
I know from their website that the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council is supporting a picket line on September 19 at three Kaiser Permanente locations in support of United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals aimed at calling out staffing shortfalls.
I’m sure there’s more, and while I realize that unions have to put their members first when it comes to organizing efforts, the struggle between capital and labor has never had such serious implications. And, with their already existing networks, unions will need to have a primary role in resisting the authoritarian political trend and recapturing those members who have been lured into a cult whose aims are nefarious.
My friend and associate Jim Miller pens a weekly column (Mondays!) here at Words & Deeds. It provides vital insights in the struggle generally and union priorities locally.
For a national perspective on labor issues, it doesn’t get any better than Labor Notes (especially with the UAW about to strike!)
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention fellow substacker Hamilton Nolan’s How Things Work.
Tuesday’s News Treats
2023 severe weather: $57 billion in damage and 253 people dead so far Via CNBC (And that’s just in the US)
The back-to-back disasters have raised concerns about whether the Federal Emergency Management Agency has enough money left to respond adequately as hurricane season enters it peak.
FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said last month that the federal disaster fund is down to the last $3.4 billion, forcing the agency to focus on the immediate needs of people impacted by the Maui wildfires, Hurricane Idalia and other disasters that may strike in the near term.
Criswell said the disaster fund would go into the red by the middle of this month in the absence of additional money. The Biden administration has asked Congress for $16 billion to replenish the fund.
no, Donald Trump was not at Ground Zero on 9/11. just fucking stop it. Via Everyone is entitled to my own opinion by Jeff Tiedrich who always tells you what he really thinks.
Donald Trump — and I cannot stress this enough — was nowhere near Ground Zero on 9/11.
soft, pampered Coward McBonespurs spent 9/11 in the penthouse of his gaudy gold-plated tower, phoning in to various TV and radio shows to brag about how his property at 40 Wall Street was now the tallest building in lower Manhattan.
I shit you not.
any photos or videos you see of Trump near Ground Zero were taken days later, after it was safe for the publicity-hog to find a camera to stand in front of.
Speaker McCarthy announces impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden by Mike McKinnon III at KUSI
Alternative Headline & Subhead
Republicans Unveil Plan to Lose Congress in 2024
It’s called the lemming sweep