Why It’s a Big Deal That Fast Food Strikes Have Spread to the South | Smart News | Smithsonian
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Why It’s a Big Deal That Fast Food Strikes Have Spread to the South

Fast food workers are asking for more money and to unionize, something that's unusual to see in the South

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Strikes began in July in New York, and have now spread to the South. Image: mtume_soul

Right now, fast food workers are striking, asking for higher wages and the right to form a union. It’s believed to be the largest strike in the history of the fast food industry, and it’s making national headlines because it’s happening in an unusual place—the South.

Historically, the Southern United States has been the least unionized region of the country. Here’s a map from U.S. Census data (created by DailyViz) showing the rates of union membership among employed people:

Dorian Warren, a political science professor at Columbia told CNN that these strikes in the South are both unusual and a sign of the times. “There are higher barriers to collective action, because most states are ‘right to work’ states, which makes it hard to form unions,” he told them. “The fact that workers are going to strike is a sign of a significant turning point in the movement. It’s really gone national.”

In North Carolina, where less than 3 percent of workers are part of unions, MSNBC says that the usual challenges to getting support for unions haven’t materialized. “You would think it would be very hard to organize, because is a right-to-work state and because people have been living under fear of being fired for the most minute issue … but to be honest with you, people are just fed up,” Corine Mac, a Charlotte-based community organizer with the NAACP told MSNBC.

The workers plan to take the strike nationwide and have already shut down restaurants all over the country.

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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