Atlanta’s Untold Fast Food Strike History, Part 2 of 2

The demise of the 1979 strike/boycott at Church’s Chicken

 
The following historical article is the second in a two-part series focusing on labor unrest at Church’s Fried Chicken stores in Atlanta during the 1970s. The first installment told the story of a 24-day strike and boycott that shut down the majority of Atlanta-area Church’s locations in 1972. This latter installment recounts two additional bouts of labor unrest at Atlanta Church’s stores that took place in 1977 and 1979. In addition, this piece also details a subsequent campaign launched by Church’s in the mid-1980s in an effort to rid itself of the then widespread reputation for racism and racial insensitivity that the company had acquired within the Black community.
–Ben S, Atlanta

Changes at Church’s

One of the most significant effects of the 1972 strike/boycott at Church’s Fried Chicken was the movement’s impact on racial dynamics within the company. Most notably, the strike compelled Church’s to accelerate its integration of management. In the years following 1972, the company began promoting increased numbers of Blacks to store manager positions. What’s more, in 1973, the company elected the first Black member to its board of directors. Alongside these developments, the company launched a minor public relations campaign aimed at rehabilitating its image in the Black community. In a 1973 advertisement published in the Atlanta Daily World, Church’s touted itself as a paragon of opportunity for aspiring, hard-working Blacks. As the ad put it, “Church’s Fried Chicken offers the little man the opportunity to learn the necessary skills in operating a fast food outlet.” In order to further bolster its image and cultivate Black support, the company began making minor donations to local Civil Rights groups, including the Martin Luther King, Jr. Foundation. It also moved to sponsor several little league teams in Black neighborhoods. [1] Continue reading

Atlanta’s Untold Fast Food Strike History, Part 1 of 2

The 1972 strike/boycott at Church’s Chicken


The following historical article is the first in a two-part series focusing on labor unrest at Church’s Fried Chicken stores in Atlanta during the 1970s. This initial installment tells the story of a 24-day strike and boycott that shut down the majority of Atlanta-area Church’s locations in 1972. As I explain, this struggle took place within the context of a broader strike wave that swept Atlanta that same year. The second installment in this series will recount two additional bouts of labor unrest at Atlanta Church’s stores that took place in 1977 and 1979.

– Ben S, Atlanta

During the 1972 strike at Church's, Atlanta's Left-wing counterculture newspaper, The Great Speckled Bird, provided detailed coverage of the movement. This story (and accompanying STRIKE! Cartoon) was featured in The Bird's May 15, 1972 edition.

“Church’s Chicken Strikes Again!!,” The Great Speckled Bird, May 15, 1972.

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