By Jason Grunebaum
When’s the last time you saw a McDonald’s commercial featuring one of its workers cashing a paycheck that pays a living wage?
Or opened a university homepage to find a full-screen photo crowded with smiling non-tenure-trackers and the headline: Our students couldn’t do it without you?
The commercial’s held up in casting, and the provosts of the land are still playing with the fonts.
But make no mistake: both are in the pipeline, and the upcoming actions of 4.14 will give us all a huge boost forward.
You can feel the momentum. A real minimum wage for California, the eighth largest economy in the world? $15/hour, expected to be voted on by the Legislature soon. A union at a major private university in the labor-regressive south? Duke faculty won theirs last week, by a stunning six-to-one margin.
These victories build on major recent gains like New York state’s commitment to a minimum wage of $15, and big union wins for faculty at Brandeis University, Loyola University of Chicago, and The University of Chicago, where I teach.
It all began with the courage of a few—the famous November 2012 walkout of over 100 fast-food workers in New York City. Their courage has been infectious and reciprocal, turning the Fight for 15 into a nationwide, worldwide movement for social and economic justice.
They paved the way for a broader coalition of home healthcare workers, childcare workers, airport workers, and non-tenure-track faculty, all fighting against the corporate cannibalizing of everything, coming together to make real change in the lives of many.
And they taught us that the only way to keep up the pressure is to keep up the pressure. We witnessed this during last April’s unforgettable actions across the US. The impact was profound. This year’s 4.14 mass displays of solidarity promise to be even more vocal, more powerful, more urgent.
The brave souls in North Carolina know what’s at stake. They’re taking a righteous stand against Margaret Spellings as the tragedy of Wisconsin looms as a warning.
We’ve also seen the gains, like the spike in Seattle food jobs, as the $11—on the way to $15—minimum wage kicked in.
I’m taking action on 4.14 because I’ve personally been inspired by the leadership and achievements of FF15 activists like Naquasia LeGrand, Adriana Alvarez, Terrance Wise, and so many other steadfast fighters who have enlarged the circle of courage.
I’ll be joined on 4.14 by many of my colleagues at UChicago and other faculty across the city as we take to the streets and stand side-by-side with our low-wage worker sisters and brothers.
Together, we will continue until we win the fight for $15 and a union, and respect for the workers who feed the nation. Fair pay and promotion for the stewards of this country’s future is the needed gravy in the wake.