Below are excerpts from a talk given by Larry Holmes, Workers World Party first secretary, at a WWP forum in New York on Sept. 5.
Holmes began his talk by heralding the national Day of Action by fast food workers on Sept. 4, where thousands participated around the country and hundreds were arrested in civil disobedience actions. In some cities, home health care workers walked off their jobs and joined the protests.
“The actions are calling attention to the growing numbers of low-wage workers around the country. Even if the fast food workers’ struggle ended today, it still won a lot,” stressed Holmes. “These workers, fast food, low-wage-workers, went from being invisible to visible. They are Black, Brown, women and immigrants. They work for low pay and face bad treatment.”
Significantly, on May 15, there was a coordinated worldwide day of action of fast food workers, which called attention to the millions of low-wage workers around the globe, who are in struggle for their rights.
“Their struggles have made their plight popular. This can’t stop. It’s too important,” emphasized Holmes. “The fast food workers’ struggle has meaning for all low-wage workers. These are brave, bold workers. Their struggle can revive the labor movement here.”
Holmes noted that the corporate media did not want to tell the masses about these low-wage workers rising up, as it would “give them ideas.”
This struggle is so important that organizers even came from Ferguson, Mo., to join in New York City’s fast food workers’ actions. Many workers in Ferguson are employed in fast food and other low-wage jobs.
“Why don’t the labor unions show solidarity with the struggle in Ferguson? Why can’t the labor unions take food and medicine to Ferguson and go there with a banner saying ‘Justice for Michael Brown’?” posed Holmes.
Holmes also asked, ”Why isn’t Labor Day dedicated to low-wage workers? That day should be in solidarity with low-wage workers. This is the most important struggle. It affects every worker.
“The labor unions should reach out to and support immigrant workers, too, and bring them into the unions,” Holmes underscored.
The current situation with capitalism, driving down wages and increasing the number of low-wage jobs, demands that labor unions have solidarity with all low-wage workers. There must be a classwide struggle, which includes all workers, of all nationalities, from all countries, Holmes emphasized.
Another key issue that must be addressed is the federal labor laws that allow employers to pay workers with disabilities less than the minimum wage.
Holmes announced that the People’s Power Assembly is organizing an important demonstration on Oct. 8 at the site of the World Business Forum in New York City. Outside this huge meeting of the biggest corporate CEOs, the PPA will raise the major issues facing fast food and other low-wage workers: the demand for a $15-per-hour minimum wage and their right to unionize.
Holmes invited everyone to join in the mobilization for Oct. 8.