The fast food workers’ wage strikes are picking up steam, and they’re demanding no less than $15.00/hr pay rate for their work. The only problem is that capitalism is capitalism no matter what it pays.
Fight For 15 looks to be a leader in the fast food wage strikes making their debut on Facebook as early as November, 2012. I didn’t hear about the fast food wage strikes until December, 2013 so either I was late to the party or it took the wage strike movement almost a year to get the attention that they were seeking. It was probably a combination of the two seeing how I was busy being a full time student and wasn’t watching the news the way I should have been, but the wage strikes are still happening and they seem to be gaining momentum. I wish them success, but even if they get their $15.00/hr pay rate I don’t think their success will be long lived or even that it will materialize in the way they want it to. When you bargain with the devil don’t be surprised when the contract doesn’t work the way you’d like.
The plaintiffs are just about the kind of people that you would imagine them to be, and I’m not saying that in a demeaning way. Fight For 15 is representing single mothers, under-employed college graduates, regular Joes & Janes, and the family types who don’t have the high-price college certificates to compete with the people who made it into the higher paying segments of the job market. They’re in this for everybody, so far as I can tell, but it looks different under closer examination.
A quick glance over Fight For 15’s Facebook page tells any astute observer that they’re more interested in certain types of fast food workers. The only memes on their Facebook page that feature only White people are either animations (insert Batman slapping Robin meme here…) and politicians. If I’m reading them correctly then the only thing they want White people to do is to support their movement or get slapped. This sounds like the usual liberal social justice trope wherein White people are commanded to submit or suffer violence. Of course, Fight For 15’s memes are much more benign than that but the undertow is still there. The other problem with their activists is to do with aesthetics. Their problem is that they all look like they were transplants from the May Day rally in D.C. Dressed with bright red sheet-plastic rain coats or bright red t-shirts they positively smacked with the sleaziest self-interested communism.
Up until recently I haven’t heard much of a response from the national fast food chains, but Fight For 15 looks to have been successful in forcing McDonald’s to disgorge. A March 4, 2014 article by Salon indicates that the corporate heads at McDonald’s are getting a headache over the strikes and that they might actually have to pay workers more as a result of the prolonged and sustained activism. The unexpected media darling in this whole case is Brian Parker. He’s an owner of a Detroit Moo Cluck Moo restaurant and he’s already paying his workers $15.00/hr.
The difference between Moo Cluck Moo and McDonald’s is that the former is strictly local with only two locations in Michigan, and the latter is an international chain of restaurants operating under the most recognizable brand in the world. Comparing a restaurant chain with only two locations in the same state is not a fair comparison to an international corporation with more than 35,000 locations. Needless to say the business administration suited for Moo Cluck Moo isn’t going to be the same for McDonald’s. If we’re going to hold up Moo Cluck Moo as a model for private business then it’s certainly a rebuke of the globalist trade policies that have made McDonald’s so successful. The other major difference is that only one the restaurants has food that is suitable for human consumption.
I’ve not heard much from fast food customers about this whole ordeal, but I would expect that most would be either indifferent or strongly supportive– unless the price of fast food were to rise dramastically. Even then I’m doubtful that people would stop buying fast food. The reason for my skepticism is that the kinds of people who buy fast food are always going to be the kinds of people who buy fast food, and the glorious convenience of drive through is unbeatable. The uncanny regularity from one chicken nugget to the next also guarantees that no single piece will perturb the taste palette.
All of this agitation has been accomplished by staging walk-outs, demonstrations, and other activism designed to injure national fast food chains’ profits. The most visible fast food wage strikes are coming out of Chicago, New York, and Boston, but others are popping up in the scene now. There are also some wage strikes happening internationally, but I’ll bet that their strikes have more to do with “actual factual” worker abuse than just lousy pay.
Is lousy pay really the only problem, and will everything be right if workers do manage to harangue $15.00/hr out of their employers? Capitalism is capitalism is capitalism no matter what it pays, and fast food workers aren’t going to get away from what plagues them even if they’re making $100.00/hr. The reason why is that capitalism is a worldview and lifestyle. If your employer makes your abusive corporate relationship more enjoyable, does it make it justified?
The testimonials from Fight For 15 participants, and those involved in other unassociated strikes, all have one thing in common. All of the participants’ stated reason for participating in the strikes had to to with independence. Not the kind of independence that we associate with freeing ourselves from tyrannical and oppressive governments, but the kind of independence that frees a person from their familial bonds and tribal loyalties. That is what makes capitalism so insidious. When capitalism is really working you will notice it the least. It’s the moment when you think that you beat 1984, but you actually landed in Brave New World.
What’s the moral of the story? Capitalism and modernity make life hard. It’s even harder if you’re trying to do it on your own. Higher pay helps make life comfortable, but capitalism is still capitalism no matter how comfortable it is.
Do you have something to say about the fast food wage strikes and Fight For 15? Let them know on twitter with #FightFor15.
Click here to read my previous commentary on fast food wage strikes.
Fight For 15: Fast Food Wage Strikes Revisited by Thomas Buhls is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.