Thursday, December 5, 2013

Fast Food protest and sit in, Fruitvale, Oakland CA

By Richard Mellor Afscme Local 444, retired

I went to the fast food protest today that began at the Fruitvale BART station in East Oakland and we marched form there to the Jack In the Box at 26th and E 14th. Street. I think the video above gives some idea of the mood there and I would say there was maybe 150 to 200 people present, many of them young workers and their families and quite a few of them fast food workers themselves.

It would be easy to be critical of these events as a major union, SEIU, is heavily involved in this movement and like most international unions, the leadership has basically cooperated with the bosses in forcing concessionary contracts on their members in the interest of “shared sacrifice”. Like the leadership of the entire labor movement, the SEIU officialdom supports the Team Concept, the pact between the bosses and the union hierarchy based on the false idea that the economic interests of both parties are the same. But as some of us have been arguing for some time, as a genuine workers movement arises, it will include many confused and contradictory elements and prominent figures like religious leaders will be involved as they were today.

I have a hard time when these events are opened by religious figures preaching but we must see the movement as it is and not how we want it to be. The majority of people at this event were workers. I also talked to some folks that had simply come off the train after work and were watching the event with enthusiasm. I could see the sense of potential power and the feeling of unity in the faces of so many participants which is what happens when we take any action directed at the bosses; people don’t feel alone, so helpless.

When we got to the Jack in the Box people started to go in and there were too many of us in there by the time the management tried to close the doors. We could see that the workers in there loved it too. No one was hostile to them or the security you see with the cameras who are also low waged workers. In the video you might hear the young woman giving out the number of two corporate figures from Jack in the Box and asking people to call them because the manager of this particular store refused to meet with us. The events that brought us to this store to the best of my knowledge was that the management had asked a number of workers to show their identity cards. They asked only in Spanish and only Latino workers. They then fired some of them.

As I say, we can easily find issues to complain about in this campaign but we cannot deny that there is a shift in the mood in this country. These type of actions were not happening before to the extent they are now. And I personally think a $20 an hour minimum wage is more appropriate but to trash a campaign for that reason would be a mistake, after all, for millions of workers here that would be a 100% increase in pay. No, this was a very positive action and the young workers, many of them recent immigrants, and no doubt undocumented immigrants as well, will have been inspired and strengthened by it. It cheered me up just to watch them. I apologize for the quick report and amateur video but my time is short and my videography skills weak. I hope the clip gives the reader some idea of the sense of unity and class solidarity that was there and we socialists in particular remind ourselves to see the movement as it is and not as we want it.

1 comment:

BenL8 said...

Low wages are the norm. Half of all U.S. workers have wage income below $27,520 according to the Social Security Administration report on wage income. That's 74 million workers, and their average income is below $10,000 a year. I know numbers are a real bore, but . . . $745 billion is the combined income of half of all workers, and $12,950 billion is the total personal income amount according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. That means that 6% of all income is the portion that half receive. You say that $20 an hour would be a decent minimum wage target and I agree, but it could not happen immediately without running many businesses out of business. Fruitvale Station BART is the scene of the Oscar Grant murder by BART police and the title of the movie. Slumberg Wasteland perhaps, I have some friends running a restaurant in that area, Aztec food. I'll plug my blog,, lots of info about inequality there.