Labor protest

Opinion: Don’t ignore these labor protests

Joe Kefauver is managing partner of Align Public Strategies, a full-service public affairs and creative firm that helps corporate brands, governments and nonprofits navigate the outside world and inform their internal decision-making. This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of Nation’s Restaurant News.  

In case you missed it, a national Higher Ground Moral Day of Action took place Monday at 30 state capitols across the country and Washington, D.C. An organization of national and local progressive faith leaders called Moral Revival planned the events to deliver their “Higher Ground Moral Declaration.”

They called on politicians at all levels “to move away from extremist politics and policies that benefit the few and move toward policies and laws that are just and fair and guarantee a better life for the majority of the people.”

Labor activists and others from the social justice community joined them to call attention to many of the policies important to entry-level employers like minimum wage, paid leave, healthcare and others. These events are not new and have been happening under the radar for close to two years. However, this week’s events were a big step forward in elevating that dialogue.
Business leaders might be tempted to dismiss this latest round of protests as failed media stunts that were sparsely attended and earned very little press coverage. But that would be a mistake. The leaders of this movement play chess, not checkers, and are always focused on the long term. 

Remember, two or three years ago, we saw small protests like these regarding wages. 

“Far left of center” activists called for a $15 an hour minimum wage. Look how far they’ve come. The push for a $15 an hour minimum wage is the 50-yard line of the debate, and wage stagnation is a front-burner issue in the presidential campaign. Again, chess, not checkers.
Don’t look at attendance figures and media hits for the important takeaways from this week’s events. Pay attention to the slow, steady and intentional merging of the wage stagnation, pay equity, and racial and social justice issues. It is the reframing of these issues in a moral and social justice context and the emerging portrayal of entry-level employers as unjust and racially tone-deaf that should alarm business leaders. Employers need to figure out their next move.

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