“Day of Action” for $15 minimum wage, union-backed strikes and the risks of urban progressivism

Another day of fast-food “strikes” inspired and promoted by labor unions to set a $15 minimum wage. (KING 5 has video of the Seattle activity.) Josh Eidelson, a former union organizer, writes at Salon about the day’s events.

The actions, which will be announced at a noon press event in Manhattan, were discussed this week in New York at an international gathering of union leaders and fast food workers from dozens of countries, called by the global union federation IUF (International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations). They mark the latest escalation in the showdown between an embattled U.S. labor movement and a fast food industry whose jobs are increasingly prevalent and representative of work in America’s post-crash economy.

The New York Times also reports on the global day of action.

Over the last decade as American labor unions have declined in membership and power, they have increasingly turned to unions in Europe and Asia to help pressure companies overseas to stop battling organizing drives at their United States units. And now the fast food movement, underwritten by the Service Employees International Union, is embracing a similar strategy as it struggles to gain influence with the fast food giants.

“It’s a global economy, so they’re saying, ‘Why not go overseas to make it into a global fight?’ ” said Lowell Turner, a professor of international labor relations at Cornell University. “They’re trying to create a global protest movement.”

There’s nothing spontaneous about these things and never was. In Seattle, with the mayor and city council poised to adopt a $15 minimum over time, the activity might be expected to produce a meh, been there, doing that. But of course, nothing is set yet, so the pressure continues to build.

The Seattle Times has a good video discussion of the Seattle proposal and its likely effects on business, nonprofits and the city’s competitiveness.

As Seattle vies for recognition as one of the nation’s most progressive cities, John Norquist, former mayor of Milwaukee, questions what it means for cities to be the “cradles of progressivism.” He mentions Seattle in passing, but the larger discussion is of most interest. The whole piece – it’s short – is worth reading. His conclusion may surprise you.

In the end, the greatest risks with the new urban progressivism are not the headline-grabbing ones such as a crime increase or stagnant job growth due to a higher minimum wage. What we should be more concerned about is that city officials will relax their fiscal diligence and, instead of negotiating responsibly, allow union leaders to confuse expensive contracts with progressivism.

Fiscal diligence?