By TIM ROWDEN
Organizers with the national fast food workers’ movement have joined the United Media Guild (UMG) through a card check involving movement organizers and office employees.
UMG has proudly represented fast food organizers since the early days of the “Fight For 15” movement, most recently as the staff union for the (then) Mid-South Organizing Committee staffers in Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana.
“Fight For 15” is the international movement of underpaid workers taking a stand against poverty wages, which recently organized as the National Fast Food Workers Union (NFFWU).
UMG Business Representative Shannon Duffy and NewsGuild-CWA Organizer Melinda Fiedler recently met with organizers for the fast food workers in Washington D.C. and collected signed membership cards from a vast majority of them.
AN ELECTION ALTERNATIVE
On Nov. 29, the UMG was deemed to have majority status during a card check procedure, which, as an alternative to a secret ballot election, is a simple and easy way for an employer and a union to determine if a majority of workers want to be represented by the union. The card check was performed by Rabbi Susan Talve, a neutral third party, in her office at the Central Reform Congregation in St. Louis.
The card check involved 52 NFFWU employees from throughout the country, 45 of whom signed cards deemed to be valid stating they wanted to be represented by the Guild.
“We’ve organized and now represent the employees who work for the National Fast Food Workers Union,” Duffy said, adding that UMG will now begin negotiating a contract with NFFWU for the organizers, communications workers, data specialists and office personnel.
The NFFWU employee unit joins Missouri Jobs With Justice and the Workers Interfaith Network of Memphis as social justice groups represented by the UMG.
The organization of workers within NFFWU by the UMG is unique but also telling of the motivational impact of organizers’ work with the fast-food workers.
Rabbi Talve, the founding rabbi at Central Reform Congregation, which is known for fostering relationships with African-American and Muslim congregations and a strong advocate for workers’ rights and civil liberties, summed it up in a reflective comment before the card check started.
“This is a major thing,” Rabbi Talve said, “A labor organization inspiring their employees so much that they wanted to form a union.”
The fast-food workers’ campaign started in New York City in 2012 when 200 workers walked off their jobs and has since spread to every region of the country, elevating the debate about inequality and dispelling the myth that jobs in fast-food and other low-wage sector industries are filled by a young, temporary workforce.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, 92 percent of the low-wage workforce are over 20, and 30 percent are older than 40. They are mothers and fathers struggling to raise children and care for family members on wages so low they have to rely on public assistance.
The movement has spurred wage hikes totaling more than $62 billion for 22 million underpaid workers, including more than 10 million who are on their way to $15/hour, by convincing voters, politicians to corporations to raise their pay.