The alliance between adjunct college professors and fast food workers appears at first glance to be an unlikely partnership. Yet their interests coincide more than you’d think.
According to Art Hazelwood, an art/printmaking professor at the San Francisco Art Institute, one reason is the precarious nature of the jobs: the insecurity of never knowing how long you will hold it, the lack of health care benefits or retirement plans.
“Everything is from semester to semester,” he said. “You don’t know if you’ll get one class or three or what your schedule will be.”
The anxiety level gets jacked up when you see your job being advertised even as you are doing it.
“It’s like you’re dependent on the vagaries of the administration’s goodwill,” Hazelwood said. “Or what if the administration changes and decides not to offer your class next semester?”
He noted that SFAI used to have an Urban Studies major, but the administration closed it down.
“Where do those teachers go? What do they do?” he asked.
The corporate food chain
Another commonality Hazelwood pointed to is that like fast food restaurants, schools are becoming more and more corporate, with new rules and HR people.
“Business think is creeping into academia,” he said.
Professors and fast foodies unite
The two have another common interest, this one more promising. They are both organizing with the help of SEIU. Through the work of the union, several members of the East Bay Organizing Committee — a group of fast food workers involved in the Fight for Fifteen — came to one of Hazelwood’s classes and met with a dozen of his students a year ago, last March. They discussed the issues and how to present them, which images worked and felt empowering.
Hazelwood had already introduced his students to the world of political printmaking. Under the rubric of The Poster Syndicate, they created posters for adjunct faculty organizing campaigns with students at other campuses like Mills College and the California College of the Arts, as well as for the Coalition on Homelessness and the community/labor support group Jobs with Justice. So this was not much of a stretch.
The students met several times with fast food workers and tossed around ideas until they settled on the image that would become the one for the big fast food strike last April 15: a strong African American woman standing on a heap of trash with the slogans “We are not disposable” and “Take to the Streets April 15.” They printed it on t-shirts and posters, even taking their screens to the demo on the UC Berkeley campus that day, printing on the spot to the delight of strikers and their supporters.
The Poster Syndicate came up with several designs for the Fight for Fifteen action last fall in Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza. On site they had five designs people lined up for, choosing which one they wanted and having it made for them to order right there like they were at Burger King.
Coming right up
This year The Poster Syndicate came up with new designs for the upcoming Fight for Fifteen rally on April 14, 2016.
Carlos Rodriguez, one of Hazelwood’s students who met with the fast food workers and worked on some of the poster designs, noted that as a student he’s been working part-time for minimum wage at SFAI.
“After graduation you have to do an internship to get anywhere, so that may continue for a while,” he said.
Ryan Harrison, another of Hazelwood’s students, works for minimum wage cleaning up the print studio. He and his co-workers at the school are pushing for $15 an hour too. He created some posters around Mayor Lee kicking out homeless people around the Embarcadero for Super Bowl City.
“I was taken by the juxtaposition of all the money spent on Super Bowl ads and how much housing that could build,” he said. “Work that matters is so much more engaging.”
The Poster Syndicate’s work will be engaging thousands more at the April 14 rally at Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza. And again they will be at the action printing on site for participants.
Fight for 15 Action & Rally
Th 4/14 -12-3p – Frank Ogawa Plaza, Oakland – 3-5:30p march and rally
SEIU International: “$15 win in California shows power of sticking together”
The Fight for $15 (#Fightfor15) national movement of millions of workers is positioned to achieve a historic victory for underpaid Californians, who will see their wages rise to $15 per hour by 2022 under an agreement announced by Governor Brown and Legislative leaders [on Monday]. The proposed legislation must still pass in the legislature.
“Fast food workers, early childhood educators, home care providers and other hard-working, underpaid Californians have made history and delivered hope to millions of families struggling to get by on wages too low to live on and without basic benefits such as sick days,” said Laphonza Butler, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) California. …
Governor Brown and legislators will move forward legislation to raise the California minimum wage to $15 by 2022, and end an unfair exclusion of home care workers from a state guarantee of three paid sick days for all workers. …
The agreement in California is the latest and biggest victory for the Fight for $15 and underpaid workers who just three years ago launched their movement for higher pay and union rights in New York City. In California, local Fight for $15 movements have won key victories in Los Angeles, and San Francisco. When this agreement is signed into law by Governor Brown, California will be the first state in the nation to adopt this crucial standard for all workers.
“For many generations we have recognized that there are legitimate roles for the Government to play in protecting our people from economic injustice and hardship. Our Founding Fathers explicitly stated this. In the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States, it is declared that this Government was established, among other reasons, to ‘promote the general welfare.’”
— President Harry S. Truman, on why he almost-doubled the minimum wage from 40 cents to 75 cents an hour (Jan. 24, 1950). The raise decreased the national unemployment rate from 6.5% to 3.7% in one year.
“Every time we raise the minimum wage, the number of jobless people increases.”
— GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson (Nov. 10, 2015)
Bustle: “Photos Of The Fight For $15 Protests Reveal A Unified Movement Gaining Momentum” (photos from around the country)
Powerful photos from nationwide protests inspired by the Fight for $15 campaign — a labor union-backed movement committed to raising the minimum wage — shed some light on the individuals behind the movement, as well as what they face on an every day basis. … And in this campaign, the “power in numbers” phrase applies to people, as well as to the money behind it.
US News & World Report (AP): “Fast food workers protest for higher pay, push presidential candidates to join fight”
Workers from McDonald’s, Taco Bell and other chain restaurants protested in cities around the country Tuesday to push fast food companies to pay them at least $15 an hour. The protesters also had a message for presidential candidates: Support the cause or lose their vote next year.
The fast food protests were planned by organizers at more than 270 cities nationwide, part of an ongoing campaign called “Fight for $15.” Janitors, nursing home workers and package delivery workers also joined some protests, organizers said.
A year to the day [before] America heads to the polls in 2016 to elect a new president, minimum wage workers staged a nationwide protest demanding a $15-an-hour minimum wage.
The protesters are hoping to move their call for increasing the minimum wage to the top of the political agenda for candidates. Fast food workers, home-care workers, child-care workers and other underpaid employees joined the protests in 270 cities.
On November 10, workers in hundreds of cities again went on strike and rallied, this time with an especially militant overtone, timed to launch a year-long campaign to foreground low-wage workers’ issues in the elections.
Tuesday’s protests, supported chiefly by the SEIU with backing from an array of community and labor groups, showed how many methods of raising wages have made gains — through legislation, voter referenda, grassroots labor pressure — or even administrative intervention, such as New York’s Governor Cuomo’s two major executive-led wage hikes.
But more importantly, the efforts reveal why none of these measures add up yet to structural economic change. … low wages are a symptom of more systemic, structural oppression across the labor force. Ultimately, while policies to raise hourly pay have drawn populist energy, they will not directly improve the lot of workers stuck in the informal economy, undocumented laborers, people who are part-time and erratically employed, or those trapped in jobs where wage theft and overtime violations are rife. …
Incremental victories aside, the concrete effect of the Fight for $15 is more subtle, equipping many workers with the organizing tools to push their own agenda, which now touches on social-justice issues beyond wages.
BeyondChron: “Fight For $15 – Will AFL-CIO Jump In?”
“History does not repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” — Unknown Source
To their credit, the very powerful SEIU international union and its local units have thrown enormous resources into the “Fight for $15.”
But, having the far-larger national AFL-CIO involved on a grand scale would certainly add sizeable reinforcements and, in return, surely strengthen and revive the anemic union federation itself.
As mentioned earlier, the dynamic convergence of labor with the immediate, urgent needs of the working class has happened before in our history, if only twice at that. But, both times, labor grew tremendously in numbers and influence.
Even though my examples are spread across 150 years, all share in common something very fundamental to every successful social movement — an idea whose time has come.
Read and share the story of SEIU’s new statewide minimum wage ballot initiative.
Join the Campaign — Help Gather Signatures
Washington Post Opinions: “Labor rides a building backlash”
I don’t expect to gain much personally from rejoining the union faithful, because I’m in the top decile of American wage earners who have prospered in recent years. I signed up because income inequality, after years of worsening, has reached a crisis — and the decline in union membership is partly to blame. Rejoining the labor movement is my small, symbolic protest. …
There are many causes of growing inequality — globalization, education disparities, tax policy — but an International Monetary Fund study released in March found that the decline in union membership has been responsible for half of the rise in the share of income going to the top 10 percent of earners in advanced economies between 1980 and 2010. Declining union membership, by weakening the bargaining power of low- and middle-income workers at both union and nonunion businesses, has increased the share of wealth going to corporate higher-ups and shareholders.
Capital & Main: “The Wage War’s Two Fronts”
Activists in an increasing number of cities — including Seattle, Chicago, Oakland, San Francisco and now Los Angeles — have pushed their local governments to pass municipal minimum wage laws.
Today, 22 cities and counties set their minimum wages above the federal threshold of $7.25 an hour. Twenty-nine states also set their minimum wages above the federal level. Fifteen states index their minimum wages to rise automatically with the cost of living. In just the past two years, thirteen states and the District of Columbia have enacted minimum wage increases. Even voters in so-called conservative “red” states have expressed their frustration with stagnating wages. Last November, in Arkansas, Alaska, South Dakota and Nebraska, voters by very wide margins approved ballot initiatives to raise their state minimum wages.
Washington State’s $9.47 minimum wage is currently the highest among the 50 states, but it will soon be overtaken by California, whose statewide minimum wage will jump to $10 next year.
Washington Post: “Going bold in Los Angeles: A city-wide, $15 minimum wage by 2020”
It’s also a big deal because it’s the result of a national movement (the “Fight for $15”) that is gaining traction in ways that say something important about America today. Many of us, myself included, walk around pretty worried about the fact that our federal government is to no small degree shut down to the business of democracy. …
And yet, here at the sub-national level, we see a grass-roots movement persuading local officials to take bold steps in the interest of addressing a critical national problem: low-wage work in an increasingly unequal economy. That’s democracy at work, and it provides a huge breath of fresh air against the fetid oxygen of dysfunction.
Consensus Among Community, Labor, Small Business, and Government to Lift Low-Wage Workers and Address Income Inequality
BAY AREA, CA – Emeryville legislators voted unanimously to raise its minimum wage to $12.25 with a path to almost $16 by 2019, making it the highest in the nation. Their vote was spurred by consensus for a higher regional minimum wage between residents, workers, faith leaders, and small businesses. In their deliberations, Emeryville Mayor Ruth Atkin and Councilmembers cited the crisis of income inequality as the reason for their decision. The law will go into effect on July 1st after a final procedural reading of the ordinance on May 19th.
“We have to move people out of poverty,” said Gary Jimenez, Vice President of SEIU 1021. “We are winning the fight for $15, and the Bay Area is moving to develop the first regional standard in the country for wages and working conditions.”
“With income inequality out of control, we need to lift the floor for low-wage workers so if you work full-time, you don’t need public assistance,” said Emeryville Mayor Ruth Atkin. “We have a tempered regional approach and consensus that includes business. This is a policy for the common good.”
The Emeryville ordinance will raise wages for small businesses to $12.25 on July 1, with a path to $15 by 2018. Big box retail stores and other major employers with more than 55 employees like IKEA – which profited $3.7 billion last year – will raise to Emeryville’s living wage of $14.44 on July 1. The two wages will converge in 2019 at an close to $16, and continue upward with annual cost of living increases. All workers will earn 6 to 9 paid sick days as well.
At the Council meeting, roughly 25 members of the public delivered passionate testimony in favor with virtually no vocal opposition. There was clear consensus from workers, small business, faith leaders, and community members that $12.25 would be a fair place to start, helping workers, and beginning to create a regional standard to level the playing field for business.
“I have two jobs to help my mom pay the bills, and it’s hard to pay for transportation to get to school so I can get an education,” said 16-year old Emerald Jenkins, Emeryville Pak ‘n Save worker who gets paid $9 an hour. “It’s just common sense to raise the minimum wage. Not only would I be able to pay the bills, but if I earn more, I spend more, and that helps everybody.”
“Emeryville’s leadership is contributing to the positive tipping point on the minimum wage nationally,” said Jennifer Lin, Deputy Director of the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy. “Two years ago, $15 was unthinkable, but today it’s unstoppable because of the broad consensus we have among workers, community members, faith leaders, small business, and our elected leaders.”
“Our employees are our greatest asset, and If we want to grow our community, we have to make our jobs better jobs,” said Ahna Adair, owner of CommonWealth Micropub in Emeryville and CommonWealth Café and Pub in Oakland. “We’ve done it in Oakland, and the sky hasn’t fallen. We’ve raised our prices 25 cents on a coffee, and I think our customers just perceive it as the new norm.”
Jackie, an Emeryville Starbucks low-wage worker and ACCE member, said in tears, “I can’t afford to live on my own, and have to rely on my sister to get by. I have medical bills that are destroying my credit, and I don’t have enough money to see the doctor. So many of my coworkers are in the same boat.”
“With the new minimum wage, more workers will be able to live here and support Emeryville’s local businesses,” said Judy Timmel, 22-year Emeryville resident and member of Residents United for a Livable Emeryville (RULE). “And if I have to pay a little more in businesses, I don’t mind because I know it’s going to the right place.”
Councilmember Dianne Martinez thanked workers for their moving testimony and said, “If our workers are creative enough to make it on minimum wage, our businesses are creative enough to make it work. We are all going to rise together in Emeryville.”
Emeryville is the latest city in a national movement for $15 that began in the fast food industry across the country. The vote occurred as neighboring Berkeley and Richmond also look to raise their wages. Last November, 82% of Oakland voters and 78% of San Francisco voters approved wage raises to address growing income inequality in the high-cost Bay Area region. Oakland’s $12.25 wage went into effect this past March 2, and San Francisco on May 1.
More than 190,000 workers in Oakland and San Francisco won a raise thanks to the November initiatives. A higher minimum wage in those two cities alone will put $500 million into workers’ pockets, which gets spent in local businesses
San Francisco Starts Path to $15 May 1, Votes Upcoming in Emeryville (May 5) and Berkeley (June)
San Francisco–More than 142,000 workers are expected to eventually earn a raise as San Francisco’s minimum wage starts rising towards $15, with the first increase to $12.25 occurring on May 1. Joining San Francisco on the path to $15 are the cities of Emeryville and Berkeley, which will hold votes on May 5, and sometime in June, respectively, as their cities look to raise their own minimum wages.
This momentum comes on the heels of Oakland implementing what is currently the highest wage in the nation, at $12.25, and after national protests on behalf of fast-food workers and other low-wage workers, including in the Bay Area on April 15 when thousands of local workers protested in the streets to demand economic justice.
“The fast-food workers have been an incredible inspiration in the fight for $15,” said Alysabeth Alexander, SEIU 1021’s Vice President of Politics. “They have sparked a mass movement on behalf of all the low-wage workers in our society. This economy is not working for everyday workers. We need to fight for $15, raise the minimum wage, and treat workers with the dignity and respect they deserve.”
“We are winning the Bay Area’s fight for $15. The Bay Area is moving to develop the first regional standard in the county for wages and working conditions,” said Gary Jimenez, SEIU 1021’s Vice President for the East Bay. “San Francisco and Oakland have set the standard, now it’s time to expand to Berkeley, Richmond, Emeryville, and beyond.”
San Francisco and Oakland voters overwhelming approved raises in the Minimum Wage last November. Proposition J in San Francisco won with 78% and Measure FF in Oakland won with 82%. The two initiatives were each originally filed by a coalition of SEIU 1021, community-based organizations, and fellow labor unions.
The Bay Area initiatives will benefit 190,000 workers, and add nearly $500 million in consumer spending power to the local economy, according to research by the UC Berkeley Center on
Labor and Employment Research. Prop J raises San Francisco’s Minimum Wage to $15 in 2018, and Measure FF raises Oakland’s Minimum Wage to $12.25 in 2015, each indexed to inflations. More than half of workers of color will get a raise.
Emeryville’s proposal will be considered on first reading by the City Council, and calls for a minimum wage of nearly $16 by 2019, with workers at major employers like big-box retail stores earning an immediate jump to $14.42. The proposal also guarantees paid sick days for workers, protects tips, and ensures wage increases alongside inflation. Berkeley’s Labor Commission in June will bring the City Council a proposal to raise its minimum wage to $15.99 by 2017, with community allies proposing a 2016 ballot initiative if that is unsuccessful.
SEIU 1021 will continue working with community groups in the dozens of other Bay Area cities considering raising their wage.
The proponent of Measure FF is Lift Up Oakland (www.LiftUpOakland.org) and the proponent of Proposition J is the Campaign for a Fair Economy (www.RaiseUpSF.org). Lift Up The East Bay is sponsoring Emeryville’s proposal, while Berkeley’s is sponsored by a coalition of labor and community activists.
SEIU 1021 members joined low-wage workers outside City Hall on Friday to celebrate the raise in Oakland’s minimum wage and the benefits it brings to local families, communities, and the economy.
Oakland’s minimum wage will increase to $12.25 per hour on Monday, March 2nd, due to an overwhelming 82% vote for Measure FF, which also provides 5 to 9 paid sick days for workers. 78% of San Francisco voters also voted for Proposition J, raising their minimum wage to $15.
Low-wage workers and local small business owners, along with unions and community groups, have joined together to raise the wage and improve economic equality throughout the region. In addition to Oakland and San Francisco, East Bay cities–including Berkeley, Emeryville, Richmond, and others—are taking steps to raise their minimum wages to $15.
“I am a long-term temp for the City of Oakland, what they call a Temporary/Part-Time, and that means I have no consistent schedule. The City adjusts my schedule so I never qualify for any benefits. It’s hard to get by. The new minimum wage law will provide me with paid sick days for the first time in career with the City,” Marcus Brown, Public Works Park Attendant Temporary/Part-Time Worker, Oakland.
SEIU 1021, as part of the Lift Up Coalition, is working to strengthen a regional standard for wages and protections, and its basis in the growing crisis of economic inequality in the Bay Area.
To help spread the word about the raise, members of the Lift Up Oakland coalition are reaching out to the community via an online advertising campaigns, the distribution of posters and other brochures to local businesses, and direct outreach to workers throughout the city.
LiftUp Oakland submitted 33,682 signatures from Oakland voters to put its measure for a minimum wage of $12.25 and paid sick days on the ballot. The coalition called on 1000 hours of work by more than 253 volunteers and the support of 45 labor, community, and faith organizations to gather the signatures, a reflection of overwhelming community support for this minimum wage proposal.
The Lift Up Oakland Steering Committee worked hard to pass Measure FF. SEIU 1021 is a part of a coalition of labor, community and faith organizations, including ACCE Action, California Nurses Association, East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, East Bay Organizing Committee, Restaurant Opportunities Center of the Bay, Service Employees International Union – United Long Term Care Workers, Street Level Health Project, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5, and UNITE HERE 2850.
“I support raising the minimum wage because it will help all of Oakland citizens live better lives and show that our city is a trailblazer for economic justice in America,” said Chris Higgenbotham, an Oakland fast-food worker and teacher
“The increase in minimum wage is a great benefit to working class families because it gives them the opportunity to provide a more comfortable life for their children. With this raise, families can now invest in their children’s education and workers like myself can start on a path to lead a better and more dignified life,” said Toribio Ticante, an Oakland day laborer.
One Million California Workers in Line as Momentum Builds for Minimum Wage
More than 192,000 workers in San Francisco and Oakland are the real winners as Bay Area voters overwhelming approved raises in the Minimum Wage today. Proposition J in San Francisco is currently leading with 72% and Measure FF in Oakland is leading with 79%.
The victory of these two initiatives—each originally filed by a coalition of SEIU 1021, community-based organizations, and fellow labor unions—will give momentum to the national, statewide and regional efforts to raise the minimum wage.
The Bay Area initiatives will benefit 190,000 workers, and add nearly $500 million in consumer spending power to the local economy, according to research by the UC Berkeley Center on Labor and Employment Research. Prop J raises San Francisco’s Minimum Wage to $15 in 2018, and Measure FF raises Oakland’s Minimum Wage to $12.25 in 2015, each indexed to inflation. More than half of workers of color will get a raise.
“Raising the Minimum Wage is just one step in fighting economic inequality, but it is an amazing step,” said Gary Jimenez, SEIU 1021 East Bay Vice President. “Times are difficult for so many families, wages are flat or falling, and it feels like many of us haven’t recovered from the Great Recession. Raising the Minimum Wage gives people hope that things can become better and they can live with dignity.”
“We need a broader economic rights movement. That means fast food workers win a union and decent conditions. It means raising the minimum wage, strengthening public services, and making big businesses pay their fair share,” added Roxanne Sanchez, President of SEIU 1021.
A total of nearly one million California workers are in line to win wage increases, including the 190,000 in the Bay Area. Another 70,000 workers in San Diego would benefit if a 2016 referendum wins, and 567,000 workers in Los Angeles would from a proposal by Mayor Garcetti. (A City Council version is not yet analyzed.)
SEIU 1021 will continue working with community groups in Berkeley and Richmond for a 2016 ballot measures to raise the wage to $15, and with dozens of other Bay Area cities considering raising their wage.
The proponent of Measure FF is Lift Up Oakland (www.LiftUpOakland.org) and the proponent of Proposition J is the Campaign for a Fair Economy (www.RaiseUpSF.org).
SEIU Local 1021 represents over 54,000 community service employees throughout Northern California.