URBAN AGENDA: Empowering Poor and Working-Class People

David R. Jones, Esq., President and CEO of the Community Service Society of New York | 8/23/2018, midnight
The movement in New York City to organize low-wage fast food employees, and to bring public attention to issues impacting ...
David R. Jones Contributed

Fast-food employees, like just about every other low-wage worker group, desperately need an advocate. For instance, there was a time when fast-food workers were dominated by teenagers and students. Today, 75 percent of these workers are in their 20’s or older and a third of them have children, according to the University of Minnesota and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Sadly, 52 percent of all American fast-food workers qualify for some form of public assistance according to a 2015 study by the University of California-Berkeley Labor Center.

The emergence of Fast Food Justice, backed by 32BJ-SEIU and others, comes at a time when organized labor has had little else to celebrate. The Tea Party wave of 2010 brought anti-union, misnamed “right-to-work” laws to the industrial Midwest. Overall, union membership nationally has declined 2.9 million, or about 10 percent, since 1983, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And there’s no reason to believe the opposition to organized labor will magically melt away. For instance, the Restaurant Law Center — the legal arm of the National Restaurant Association — has filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to overturn the fast food Law.

Ironically, the fate of fast food workers is ultimately hostage to a paradox: On one hand, this great nation promotes low-wage work as the pathway for hardworking Americans to get better jobs, higher incomes and ultimately better lives. But under President Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress we’re witnessing a pernicious assault on government programs that help the poor while the nation’s wealthiest individuals and corporate America reap the benefits of large tax cuts.

Fast Food Justice along with other groups are fighting back against these attacks on poor families and low-wage workers. For more information contact them at 347-565-4593 or email info@fastfoodjustice.org

David R. Jones, Esq., is President and CEO of the Community Service Society of New York (CSS), the leading voice on behalf of low-income New Yorkers for more than 170 years. The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer. The Urban Agenda is available on CSS’s website: www.cssny.org.