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the Service Industry and ‘wildcat’ strikes…

September 6, 2013

So, how many of you are not paying anymore than the most peripheral of attention to the wildcat strikes that are happening throughout America’s fast-food and service industry these days?

Did you even know that on the Friday before the Labour Day Weekend, wildcat strikes were held at MacDonald’s and WalMarts (and other outlets) in 27 different states?

On what side of that historical image – striking workers on the Labour Day Weekend – do you stand? And it will be an historical image – just as the striking miners and the protests against child labour are historical images. It will be, because the service industry now employs the most people of any industry in North America. And when the majority start to shift direction, History takes notice.

Symbolically, I think their timing for the strikes was perfect. But strategically? It was  a bit of a media flop as no one cares about politics on the Friday before a long weekend – so the media barely covers it, politicians ignored it, and the people took off for the cottage, or the bar stool, and had one final fling with summer.

That’s not to say that it didn’t raise awareness. Many of those uninterested people still had to interact with these wildcat strikes when they found themselves at these very fast-food outlets, or when grabbing weekend stuff at their local Walmart and found themselves in the middle of marching workers.

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So, why are we still generally ignoring our Service Workers and their calls for strikes? Why are we generally ignoring these people, who by participating in and organizing these wildcat strikes, the only option left open to them, know that they are putting their jobs on the line. Thousands have already been fired.

You could try to blame corporate-media for not telling you. What with their own conglomerate corporate interests to protect. But that’s too easy these days. News about growing worker unrest in the Service Industry is out there. It’s out there plenty. And there’s plenty of video as well.

So, that’s only a partial truth.

Statistically, the Service Industry took over as the number one employer in Toronto about 5-6 years ago. The same trend is happening in most big urban centres in Canada, and throughout North America.

In cold hard demographic facts, the statistical majority of our population now works for wages that are most often somewhere between $10-12/hour (Canada), or $7.50 to $9 in the States.

Imagine that for a moment, if you will. Think about how you would live on $11 dollars an hour. Work a forty hour week at a coffee shop where the line never wavers, where the work never stops. Take home your $300 a week after-taxes-paycheque and see how – where – you live.

Imagine that life, for a few minutes.

We interact with the Service Industry a hundred times a day. From your morning coffee, lunch, snacks, restaurants, corner store, supermarket, clothing outlet, dry cleaners (just your regular-kind-of-day-people), you meet hundreds of people who are working at, or just above, minimum wage.

Why do we not care that much that most of our population works at minimum wage? Why did we give a better minimum wage in the 1960’s, than we do today?

These are 64,000 dollar, down-the-rabbit-hole, questions.

Why do we not care?

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