Fast food workers, backed by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and pro-labor community groups, are engaging in a series of high profile one-day strikes in an attempt to improve their wages and working conditions. Among other issues, the workers are seeking wage increases, increased hours, air conditioners, and union representation. In conjunction with the strikes, workers and unions are setting up picketing lines in an effort to publicize their efforts and rally support for union organizing.
While ostensibly the purpose of the strikes is to improve wages and working conditions, it is obvious that the SEIU is using the strikes as a publicity stunt to gain members and promote union organizing efforts. In fact, one letter distributed by the “Fast Food Workers Committee” to a New York employer stated, “this is to notify you that today July 29, 2013 we’re going on strike . . . for the right to join a union without intimidation.”
Traditionally, unions have struggled to gain members in the fast food industry because many workers view their jobs as easily replaceable and a temporary position rather than a career. As a result, many employees are not interested in paying union dues out of their paychecks. But unions are increasing their efforts to organize the industry with new vigor and are hoping to capitalize on employee concerns over job security, stagnant wages, health insurance, and a perceived lack of fair treatment and respect.
Restaurant and fast food employers should take a proactive approach to ensure their company is prepared in case their company is targeted. In particular, there are several action steps that should be taken immediately:
- Train managers on how to recognize the signs of union organizing and what to do if organizing occurs
- Draft and implement a strike and picketing plan
- Conduct a vulnerability assessment to determine if your facility could be susceptible to union organizing
- Audit your company’s wages and benefits and assess whether they are in line with industry standards
- Review policies and practices to determine if they could be the cause of union organizing
For additional information, contact Evan Rosen or Ed Cherof at Jackson Lewis, at (404) 525-8200.