Surprising numbers about Unions and the Fast Food Industry

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 03, 2011 10:05 pm
From: ... n-election

According to a recent report by the US Census Bureau, a record-breaking 43.6 million Americans– 1 in 7 people– are living in poverty. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the unemployment rate at 9.6%, with 14.9 million people out of work and uncounted millions more too discouraged to look for work. Layoffs and outsourcing have decimated higher-paid jobs, particularly strongholds of unionization such as manufacturing and construction, forcing many workers to seek employment in low-wage areas of the economy once reserved for teenagers and students. For many, it feels like food service and retail are the only jobs left.

While many workers are forced to seek employment in food service, industry wages and working conditions are widely regarded as substandard; in 2009, the median wage in the fast food industry was $8.28/hr and as of July 2010, the average workweek in fast food was only 24.3 hours. The median annual income for fast food workers is $10,462, or $871 per month. This is less than half the federal poverty line of $21,954 for a family of four, and below the federal poverty line of $ 10,830 for an individual.

Unionization has clear allure to poverty-wage food service workers. According to figures released by the Bureau of National Affairs, union members in the food service industry earned on average $2.36 more per hour, a 32% difference, than non-union workers in the same industry in 2009.

Despite the appeal of higher wages and better benefits, union density in the fast food industry is stuck at only 1.8%, far below the national average of 12.3%. Unionization efforts have been stymied by stiff employer resistance and professional “union avoidance” firms that specialize in thwarting NLRB election campaigns. 75% of employers avail themselves of third-party anti-union consultants when their employees petition for an NLRB election, according to a recent study by noted Cornell University labor scholar Kate Bronfenbrenner. The study demonstrates that many employers embark on union-busting campaigns consisting of threats, intimidation, firings, interrogation, and even spying. Due largely to these factors, only 45% of NLRB elections conducted from 1999-2003 resulted in a union victory.

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