COLUMBIA, South Carolina (ThePeoplesBeat.com) – Workers across sectors and Southern States gathered at the Worker Summit in Columbia, SC to officially launch the Union of Southern Service Workers.
Worker leaders took the stage, declaring this a “multiracial and anti-racist organization.”
For nine years workers in The South have been organizing to demand respect, livable wages, safe work conditions — free of sexual harassment and intimidation.
Angelica Hernandez works for McDonald’s in California and traveled to South Carolina to share her story. “When I said I was being sexually harassed at my job, they laughed at me and told me I was a liar. This should not be happening in our places of work,” Hernandez said. She’s been with McDonald’s for 18 years.
Hernandez told the crowd at the collective voice of workers is more powerful than the millions of dollars corporations have. “We are going to be able to negotiate with them and have them sit with us at the table so they listen to us — what we are suffering at work because they don’t believe what we are going through,” she added.
The USSW comes at a time when 68% of Americans approve of unions. “Black, brown and immigrant service workers across the South are leading the fight for a fundamental transformation of our economy and democracy aimed at re-writing outdated laws that have always held back working people and stopped them from gaining a voice through unions,” said Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union.
South Carolina had the lowest rate (1.7 percent) of union membership in the country, followed by North Carolina (2.6 percent). The US Department of Labor says that in 2021 those who were part of a union earned more on average than those who were nonunionized. Full-time nonunion workers had a median weekly earnings of $975 last year compared to $1,169 for those who were members of a union.
List of demands:
We demand dignity and equal treatment
– Equal pay regardless of race, gender, age, immigrant status, or sexual orientation.
Health and safety
– Real healthcare benefits for workers and our families
– Paid sick leave
– Ability to work full-time hours
– Regular weekly schedule with advance notice of scheduling changes
– Safe staffing levels
– Our work is essential. Our wages must reflect is.
– End industry-wide practice of wage theft.
A seat at the table
– Decision making power about our working conditions
– Corporate accountability for treatment of workers and impact on communities
– No retaliation for union activity
Respect our right to organize