I think the one-day strike at a couple of NYC’s fast food establishments is fascinating, not so much because the workers are likely to get their $15/hr wage demands (McDonalds management would sooner replace everyone with a burger flipping robot) but because of what it portends for the labor movement.
One of the my pet issues is that in the area of labor relations, everything a militant union might want to do is illegal, even if it had a ballsy leadership that was eager to organize/win concessions from employers.
Union-organized consumer boycotts are illegal under Taft-Hartley. Secondary strikes are illegal. That is, if the UFCW was bargaining with a supermarket to increase the wages of cashiers, it would be illegal for the Teamsters to stop making deliveries to the supermarket as a sympathy action. And it’s easy for the government to enforce these rules.
Why? Because, paradoxically, unions are also weak not because they too little, but because they have too much. When the proto-UAW conducted sit-down strikes at the factories in Flint, they had no banks accounts that could be seized by the DOJ and few other assets that could be taken by governments.
But today, if some UFCW local tries to organize a McDonalds by (say) organizing a consumer boycott, they threaten the entire union. One order from a judge and there go the assets it took years to build up. So unions are timid and law-abiding and, of course, dying.
So the interesting thing about the NYC fast food strike is that Fast Food Forward isn’t a union. (Though I have no idea where the money comes from; maybe they’re a front group. Which, clever!) And they’re not seeking an NLRB election to create a union. There isn’t anything to seize, no union officials to jail, no NLRA injunctions to be filed. It’s just a group of men and women who are fighting with their employer for better wages. It’s very retro and maybe the shape of things to come.
(Important note from quietlifeofdesperation, which I don’t think changes the basic points: “That’s interesting observations but I think it may be helped by the knowledge that these workers are being organized by New York Communities for Change which are funded essentially by the SEIU. And while they aren’t using the word union they *are* working to make a group that can bargain on their behalf.”)