What fast food wage protesters can learn from the past

May 28, 2014

In a May 23 article for Business Insider, Hayley Peterson looks to history to argue "Why Today's Fast Food Wage Protests Won't Force Companies to Pony Up." "American workers have been unionizing and striking for better pay and working conditions since the mid-19th century," writes Peterson, who believes that today's fast food wage protests have little in common with successful labor movements of the past.

Among the examples she cites is a 1902 strike of more than 100,000 coal miners in Pennsylvania, and a 1936 strike of auto workers at General Motors' manufacturing plants in Flint, Michigan. "The sit-down strike nearly halted GM's business, dropping its production rate from 53,000 vehicles weekly in December 1936, when the strikes began, to 1,500 vehicles weekly in February of 1937, according to a report by Joshua Hausman, an assistant professor of public policy at the University of Michigan."

By contrast, writes Peterson, "a two-day protest held at McDonald's headquarters this week caused little more than traffic problems, forcing some corporate employees to work from home for a day."