The union-backed Fight for $15 coalition is mounting what political analysts expect to be the organization’s most ambitious effort in years to disrupt business as usual for restaurants, a three-day mass demonstration and follow-up lobbying blitz that could have repercussions through the November elections.
The labor advocacy group is asking members and allies to join a nationwide strike and protest starting Oct. 2. The request is directed not only at restaurant workers, but other hourly wage earners across the service sector, including home child-care providers, airport and airline employees, hospital workers and people employed by colleges and universities.
Fight for $15 says employees of McDonald's United Kingdom operations will also be asked to participate.
“It’s go time,” reads the request, which was passed along to Restaurant Business by a source in the restaurant business.“We’re launching a massive nationwide mobilization October 2-4 – thousands and thousands of people.” The email pitch notes that participants will likely risk arrest for their behavior during the demonstration.
Fight for $15 maintains that a concerted effort is needed from restaurant workersto overcome industry resistance to paying a decent wage and curbing abuses like sexual harassment.
Similar actions have been organized a number of times in recent years by Fight for $15, including a request for a walkout last week by McDonald’s employees in 10 cities. Not a single worker complied, according to the brand’s franchisor.
But the organization has seldom if ever pressed workers from unrelated fields to join in its disruptive actions, says Franklin Coley, a partner in the lobbying and government-affairs consulting firm Align Public Strategies. Among the backers of Fight for $15 is the Service Employees International Union, and that powerhouse of the union world is pressing all of its allies to participate, he says.
“They popped into neutral once Trump was elected, so we haven’t seen something like this for a while,” says Coley.
The planned action is also different in that it’s aimed more at influencing the upcoming elections than mustering direct pressure on restaurants to unionize, Coley says. He expects Fight for $15 to ride any wave of pro-labor publicity that’s fostered during next week’s high-profile action by immediately reaching out to voters and soliciting their support for pro-union candidates.
Fight for $15 confirms that it will follow the job action with an 11-state lobbying effort. Thousands of supporters will knock on doors to lobby for national, state and local candidates who support unionization, the group said in a statement.
"Here's my message for anyone running for election this year: Stand with people who are fighting for the right to a union on the job, not powerful corporations, and you'll have my vote," says Brittany Williamson, a McDonald's worker quoted in Fight for $15's statement.
Some states are poised to send out absentee ballots for the November elections. Coley expects participants in next week’s action to press voters who quality for an absentee ballot to request one and cast it as soon as possible for pro-labor candidates. The more votes that can secured in that fashion this early in the campaigning, the more resources that can be concentrated on undecided voters as Nov. 6 draws near, he explains.
The restaurant industry's leading lobbying force, the National Restaurant Association, did not respond to a request for comment by the time of this posting on Fight for $15's lobbying plan.