Thursday, April 16, 2015

Carnival in the Streets

Super-Size Wages!  $15 an Hour Campaign Targets McDonalds

As part of a nation-wide protest in the U.S. on April 15, a large and boisterous crowd marched from the plaza in front of Northrup Auditorium at the U of Minnesota to rally in front of the Dinkytown McDonalds.  Workers called for, not super-sizing their sugary drinks or toxic fries, but their wages.  Burly McDonald’s managers in blue stood at the entrance alleging McDonald’s was still ‘open.’ Evidently, like the crowd, they also 'were not lovin' it.'  

Sponsored by a broad range of organizations – $15 Now Campaign; Neighborhood’s Organizing for Change (NOC); Centro de Trabajores Unidos in Lucha (CTUL); $15 Now Airport campaign, Teamsters Local 320 at the U; SEIU, AFSCME Local 3800 at the U; the union organizing committee for faculty at the U; and some other union locals, it was a working-class crowd that also attracted ‘soon to be’ workers – students, many of whom have to work to pay the U’s high tuition. 

Speeches were made in front of Morrill Hall, the center of the U’s administration. (Some call it ‘Im-Morrill Hall’ at this point.)  A Latino woman who is on strike against her fast-food restaurant spoke from CTUL.  Cherene Horzuk, the head of Local 3800 AFSCME, gave a rousing speech about the U secretaries and administrative workers’ successful struggle to get $15 an hour.  They have been in conflict with the bourgeois 1% that has been running the Board of Regents since the Vietnam War days.  The Regents run a very expensive, top-heavy administration that even the NY Times noted, instead of paying their staff that actually do the work.  A representative of the committee attempting to unionize faculty and TA’s spoke, as well as a Latino student who worked at fast-food restaurants for 3 years in order to become a PHD student. 

The march was led by the CTUL truck decked out in flags.  Enthusiastic young people from NOC and SEIU led chants against McDonalds, the bosses in general, for $15 an hour and for worker unity, (“Oberos, unidos, jamas seran vencidos” made its appearance.).  At one special moment as the crowd of about 400 crossed University Avenue into Dinkytown, dance music broke out and NOC led the dance moves in the street.  This might remind anyone of a quote from Emma Goldman. 

The march wound through Dinkytown and by some unaware students who perhaps had beer, shopping or their career on their minds, not the minimum wage.  The truck stopped in front of McDonalds’ and the marshals (from SEIU?) kept everyone in the street on 4th, away from McDonalds.  One observer from the IWW called it a bit of street theater, no more.  Perhaps the next time, surprise visits could be made to a fast-food restaurants for sit-ins.  As the old chant goes, “Shut it down, shut it tight, the bosses can’t profit when the workers unite.”  (It was reported to me later that people went inside the McDonalds, or that it was locked for the period of the rally.  Can anyone verify this?)

The capitalists at McDonald’s have not followed the slightly more aware corporate managers at Wal-Mart and Target by raising wages even a bit across the board.  However Wal-Mart and Target’s wages are still nowhere near $15.  Studies have shown that even $15 is inadequate for food and housing in Minneapolis, with the real bottom being around $17.50 or $18.00 an hour.  The corporate mayor of Minneapolis, liberal Democrat Betsy Hodges, is also against $15, playing her role as a representative of Target. 

Yet their partial ‘cave’ shows that this campaign is a serious social threat in the U.S. and can mobilize many different elements of the working class.  It is possible that the capitalists can accede to this demand, but it will take a mass struggle nationally. It is also possible that they cannot. The demand is spreading internationally now, as poverty wages are an international phenomenon.    Leftist organizers see it, not just a way to get a needed raise for all, but as part of a transitional approach for other working class demands.

A view of this morning's Star Tribune on-line shows no coverage of this march.

(Of special note, a large fire spewed black smoke yesterday on the north side, sending the offices of NOC up in flames along with a whole block of businesses.  The 'word on the street' is that this might be arson, as a developer is trying to gentrify this area and had plans for this block.  Burning up the offices of a progressive black-led organization would be an added plus for area capitalists.  Stay tuned to see if a real arson investigation occurs.)

Red Frog
April 16, 2015