Eyewitness report: Towards $15 and a union: Thousands of US fast food workers joined strikes, and hundreds took arrests on 4 Sep

Raise Up NC pre strike meeting

Strikers prepare for the action in North Carolina at a pre-strike meeting

police approach strikers

Fast food workers remain solid at a key intersection in Durham, unperturbed by threats by police to arrest them if they don’t back off. They respond with a steely gaze and a slow rendition of a campaign song, “We ready for $15”

Organise the South banner

The success of the action by non-unionised, low paid workers in North Carolina is particularly remarkable given the South has been notoriously difficult for unions to organise

Durham sit down Mcds 2

“We’re fighting for our union, We shall not be moved, We’re fighting for our workers’ rights, We shall not be moved, Just like a tree planted by the water, We shall not be moved!”

Thursday 4 September saw US fast food workers escalate their strike movement for $15 and a union. Across 150 cities, thousands walked out onto picket lines and protests.

Around 500 took arrests through civil disobedience inspired by the Civil Rights Movement.

The strike was the next step in their struggle that began in late 2012 and since spread to every state. It followed the first ever US-wide fast food workers’ convention in July this year that brought together 1,200 from across the states.

The autumn strike was similar to the last action in May. But it also represented a serious upping the ante on the part of the strikers.

This time the decision by so many strikers to take part in civil disobedience underlined the growing determination of workers to show they are fighting to win, and in for the long haul.

I believe that we will win

“I believe that we will win” chant strikers to the beat of the drum. One McDonald’s worker walked out to join the strike as the marchers arrived

It was also the case that the strikes had intensified, with support deepening inside many workplaces.

 

Fast Food Rights and BFAWU organisers from the UK were part of an international solidarity delegation that joined the strikers in four key cities: New York, where strikers shut down Time Square; Los Angeles, California; Chicago, Illinois; and Raleigh-Durham in North Carolina. We visited the campaign’s base in the South, and witnessed the incredible courage and vibrancy of the strikes there.

Strikers have developed links there with civil rights campaigners, and heard inspiring and encouraging words from Reverend Barber, president of North Carolina NAACP, before they marched off to their main target, a Durham McDonald’s.

Durham outside mcds 2

“We can’t survive on $7.25” chant strikers outside a Raleigh Bojangles, before marching up the side of a motorway, with a stream of toots in support, to a Burger King

Raleigh pickets Bojangles

“We can’t survive on $7.25” chant strikers outside a Raleigh Bojangles, before marching up the side of a motorway, with a stream of toots in support, to a Burger King

He told strikers, to loud cheers, that they were the continuation of the the movement for civil rights, for justice in America and that the CEOs should not be paid when workers, who generate all the profit, can’t afford health insurance, are relying on benefits to survive and can’t take care of their families.

“Burger King oh Burger King, What justice means to me, Burger King oh Burger King, Pay me $15… oh oh oh oh, oh oh oh oh oh oh…”, strikers descend on the store, making their voices hear

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