Low-wage workers don't have the luxury of taking the summer off in the fight for a living wage. Hard-working Americans from coast-to-coast have stood up to their corporate bosses in the trucking, warehouse, fast-food and retail sectors. They are demanding fair treatment. And the battle has just begun.
This week could be the most active yet. Last night in Long Beach, California, port drivers at Green Fleet Systems walked out on an unfair labor practice strike to demand their company stop trying to unlawfully intimidate them from unionizing. The company has interrogated employees about their union activities and tried to coerce them into signing anti-union petitions. And on Thursday, fast-food workers all across the U.S. are expected to walk off the job as part of their ongoing fight for respect and dignity in the workplace.
What gives? Workers want to be paid an honest, fair wage for the work they do. They want to be able to provide for their families by being justly compensated for their part in helping grow the U.S. economy. They deserve to be able to put food on the table and receive health care and other benefits.
But sadly this has become increasingly hard to do. Millions of solid middle-class jobs disappeared during the last decade because of the recession and unfair trade agreements. By a three-to-one margin, they have been replaced by those in low-wage occupations. Jobs that used to be the first step in the economic ladder for teenagers and college students are now filled by adults trying to pay their bills.
Once in those positions, there is little opportunity to move ahead. Wages remain flat, benefits are not available and work hours fluctuate. A recent student by the National Employment Law Project shows that those in low- and middle-income jobs have experienced the biggest salary losses over the past three years.
Lower unemployment alone is not getting the job done. So workers are looking to organize in an effort to earn a living wage that helps pay for the daily staples like food, housing and clothing for their families.
And all of this is happening when the nation's corporations are doing better than ever. Sales are going through the roof while workers are being forced into untenable situations. Fewer people are working now in the U.S. than any time in the last three decades. For that, we have globalization to thank. Big business is sending jobs overseas and leaving American workers with few options.
Leading the charge in the anti-worker agenda is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC, which brings companies and state lawmakers together to form a pro-corporate love match, spurs the creation of policies that strip workers of their rights while creating more loopholes for big business. It also strongly advocates for policies that make it harder to join a union.
Increasingly, however, we are seeing workers stand up for their rights. Walkouts have become commonplace. They know they are getting a raw deal and are revolting. Whether it's one-day strikes by warehouse, retail and fast-food workers or on-going protests in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin, the American public is demanding to be heard.
People are joining together to raise awareness about the plight of low-wage workers in this country. And more and more each day are realizing the unfairness of the system.