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Low Wage Work Case Study: Driving Labor's New Frontier

    • The Challenge

      The American labor market has hollowed out for decades, shedding many of the well-paying jobs that helped to build the country's middle class. Even as the economy recovers slowly from the Great Recession, most new jobs are low paying ones that can barely support a family. These workers are increasingly organizing themselves to fight for their rights. In 2012, we were approached by coalitions organizing Wal-Mart workers and fast food workers to help plan and publicize a series of historic strikes to highlight the plight of low-wage workers and move corporate employers to provide livable wages.

    • The BerlinRosen Approach

      Working hand-in-hand with the Walmart worker and fast food campaigns we developed a strategic communications plan that positioned the campaigns and emerging worker organizing as real solutions to rising inequality. When the ground actions took place—the first-ever strikes targeting Walmart, and the largest-ever strike of New York City fast food workers—BerlinRosen amplified the actions nationally, activating a network of engaged and informed reporters to tell the bigger story.

    • The Outcome

      Just about every major national media outlet covered the campaigns—from segments on ABC's "Good Morning America" and MSNBC's "Up with Chris Hayes" to lengthy articles in "Bloomberg" and "The Nation". The widespread media coverage of the Walmart and fast food campaigns created a platform that didn't exist just months prior. Media exposure around Walmart helped to galvanize 30,000 protesters across the country in support of striking Walmart workers, activating tens of thousands more online. Coverage of the fast food strikes, which encompassed dozens of stores, led workers in hundreds of additional outlets to engage with the campaign. And when a month later Walmart rolled out proposals to address mounting questions about its employment and business practices, "Business Week" noted the link to the campaign: “Wal-Mart tries to improve its battered image,” the headline read.

    What they said: The New York Times called the strikes against McDonald's, Burger King and other restaurants “the biggest wave of job actions in the history of America's fast-food industry.” In a cover story, Bloomberg BusinessWeek wrote that the emergence of OUR Walmart, which led the first-ever strikes against the retail giant, posed the “most potent challenge yet” to the company's low-wage, anti-union business model. The story proclaimed that the workers had “gotten Walmart's attention.”