Restaurant workers have a message relevant for all in the US working class
On Friday, July 24, there was a national day of action organized by Restaurant Workers United, in cooperation with other groups, highlighting the plight of unemployed restaurant workers in light of the recent end to the $600/week federal unemployment boost. The message being put forth was “we feed you, don’t let us starve.” Although this slogan has particular relevance to those in the food service industry, the number of Americans that could be facing eviction very soon makes it quite relevant to many more as well. In case you can’t be bothered to follow the link, 42% of renter households reported being unable to pay rent, and possibly facing eviction. Over 11 million potential eviction filings are estimated for the months of August through November 2020. Although there were some special protections in place until recently, proceedings have already resumed in more than 30 states.
It seems like the entire US government has been sending a message to the American working class as well, and that message, frankly, is a big “fuck you.” This isn’t exactly new, but it has become especially noticeable and offensive during the current pandemic. Now, with millions of us in worse financial shape than ever, the Senate adjourned for a three-day weekend without extending protections for American workers, right around the time many people have rent due. This is after several rounds of grandstanding and capitulation to corporate interests since the initial CARES Act fiasco.
I’ve mentioned this before, but even before the pandemic, 78% of US workers were already living paycheck-to-paycheck. As early as 2014, over half of Americans were reporting that they did not have enough savings to cover a $500 emergency. Food banks across the US have reported a staggering increase in demand since the pandemic. Conservative critics have attempted to paint the federal unemployment boost as a “disincentive to work,” a talking point which has been debunked, as if anyone who has been unemployed in the US needs a study to point out the obvious BS there. Also, as pointed out by Sonali Kolhatkar on AlterNet:
“Think about that: the yearly salary equivalent of this supposedly generous benefit works out to just over $31,000 a year. If employers are unable to compete with such a low salary, there is something deeply wrong with our economy. In Los Angeles where I live, the amount does not even cover rent for a two-bedroom apartment.”
The outlook is nothing less than horrifying. The eviction crisis is an immediate problem that must be addressed, but the fight doesn’t end there. Even if we could “return to normal,” why would we want to? Although the message that inspired this writing had a specific target, it applies much more broadly.
“We feed you, don’t let us starve.”
- — — — — — — — -
Thanks for reading!
If you can’t afford to do so, please consider sharing my work. You can also follow me on Twitter.