Thursday, May 15, 2014

Working poverty can only be defeated by worker unity.

Representatives from 33 countries met up in New York last week for a conference. Minimum wage in "land of the free" is $7.25. People are starving themselves to feed their children, people are homeless, people are working two jobs.

But the benefit of having this meeting with different countries is that you can catch them out on their excuses. Corporations like McDonald's frequently lie to our workers here as well as in NZ and say they can't afford to pay $15 an hour. Denmark workers make $21 an hour and Switzerland is $27 an hour so now we know that's bullshit.

Fast food workers in New Zealand have fought the same battle for a long time, but the difference is, in New Zealand we are entitled to a union (Unite Union), which collectively fights for workers rights with thousands of workers pushing for better conditions.

In America, they don't have unions in fast food. This means workers can get fired for standing up for their rights and it's just wrong. I have heard the most heartbreaking, and inspirational stories while being here.




The common misconception is that fast food workers are all young teens living with their parents that don't need the money. First of all, that statistic is wrong. Single parents and people that can't get another job can rely on these jobs for their only income, and it's crippling. That does not mean they are not educated. In our current day and age people are being made redundant from their jobs on a regular basis and qualifications are over looked. Also, even if you are a teenager living at home, have you seen the prices to get into university? Not to mention the prices of textbooks and tutorials? Have you seen the prices of cars, of food and even public transport??

Fast food workers are criticized for often messing up "simple orders". Try working an 8 hour shift in the hot back area next to a burning hot grill, or in the front counter dealing with rude cutsomers for hours on end, and having your boss tell you "it's too busy for you to take a break". It's not the worker's fault they're understaffed. It's not the worker's fault they haven't gotten a chance to eat or relax for hours on end, while dealing with harsh conditions or rude people, that they forget to put one extra pickle on your burger or something like that.

Hours are also a problem in NZ and here. You could go from 45 hours a week to 3 hours a week with no notice and have it be completely legal. How are you meant to survive on 3 hours a week?

So in short, we're having a protest in NZ in solidarity with the USA and the other 31 countries. But also, we want to see $15 in NZ as the minimum wage (Living wage in NZ is $18.40, this is set by our own government and assumes you're working 40 hours a week. You could need to be making $18.40 to survive comfortably). We want to be respected.

$7.25 is a poverty wage. $14.25 is STILL not a living wage. And without a union, conditions in the USA will simply not improve. We're fighting for these things to be resolved at home but we're also fighting for $15 and a union in solidarity with our comrades.

Taylor, S.A.


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