(New York Times) – The protest by tens of thousands of low-wage workers, students and activists in more than 200 American cities on Wednesday is the most striking effort to date in a two-and-a-half-year-old labor-backed movement that is testing the ability of unions to succeed in an economy populated by easily replaceable service sector workers.
Labor has invested tens of millions of dollars in a campaign for a $15-an-hour minimum wage that goes beyond traditional workplace organizing, taking on a cause that has captured broad public support. But the movement is up against a hostile business sector sheltered by a decades-old federal labor law that makes it difficult for workers to directly confront the wealthy corporations that dominate the fast-food and hospitality industries.
For political activists looking to the 2016 presidential campaign and beyond, the wage fight is coming at a potentially pivotal moment, the first concrete, large-scale challenge in decades to an economic system they view as skewed toward the wealthy.
“There is a huge upswelling of anger around jobs in this economy that are low-wage jobs,” said Jonathan Westin, director of New York Communities for Change, a grass-roots organizing group that has played a key role in both the Occupy Wall Street movement and the current fast-food workers’ campaign. “This economy we’re living in now doesn’t work for people.”