Justice

Fast Food Workers Just Had a Historic Day

November 10th 2015

By:
Alex Mierjeski

"Hold the burgers, hold the fries, make the wages super-sized!"

So went one chant that reverberated off of buildings in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday, as low-wage workers of all stripes crowded the streets in support of a $15 per hour minimum wage, union rights, and also to raise awareness of low-wage sectors of the workforce not as readily associated with the Fight for $15 movement.

Workers strike in Los Angeles

Fast-food, home care, childcare, social justice, and civil rights activists from the Los Angeles area showed up in force—just as workers in hundreds of other cities did as part of the largest coordinated low-wage worker demonstration in U.S. history, according to the Fight for $15.

"With $9 [an hour], I can't afford to pay for school, and be able to afford rent," Anggie Godoy, a cashier at a McDonald's store in Los Angeles' Arts District, told ATTN:.

"We need more hours and a raise; I've been working there for a year-and-a-half and I haven't gotten a raise...I can't survive with $9," Godoy, a political science and labor studies student, continued.

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"Another reason we're out here today is for union rights," added Maia Moncrief, a cashier at Carl's Jr. standing nearby. "We don't want to be retaliated against for taking one sick day off."

Home care and childcare providers marched alongside those in the food industry to raise awareness of low wages in job positions where employers' stakes are indisputably high.

"I'm standing in solidarity with every worker who deserves to earn a living wage, especially for the hard work that we do," said Tonia McMillian, a home childcare worker. "I work a minimum of 16 hours a day, and I deserve the comfort of knowing that I can pay my bills when they come in and have a little bit left over so that me and my family can do something every now and again."

Workers strike in Los Angeles

"It's critical; people work too hard and then I take care of their children, they're struggling, I'm offering my services trying to help them, but I'm struggling too at the same time. There's gotta be a change," added McMillian.

Fast-food workers staged the biggest walkouts in 270 cities early Tuesday morning, and they were joined later by other sectors of the low-wage workforce in as many as 500 cities, according to the Fight for $15. The protesters marched through the streets to city halls in order to bring local politicians' attention to their demands. In some cities, politicians responded: On Tuesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a $15 per hour wage for state workers, and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said he would sign an executive order raising pay for city workers and city-contracted workers to $15 an hour.

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According to the organizing group, the protests, which took place exactly one year before the 2016 elections, were also meant to draw attention to low-wage workers' cohesive power as a voting bloc, and to draw in activists from social justice movements like Black Lives Matter (BLM).

Workers strike in Los Angeles

"State sanctioned violence isn't just about the action of police shooting people; it's not only about the fact that the state allows police to get away with murder. It's also about all of the other forms of state violence that exists in this country from our education system, our criminal justice system, our food industry, our work industry," BLM organizer Dawn Modkins told ATTN: as demonstrators snaked through a destitute section of downtown LA known as Skid Row.

In addition to speeches at city hall, organizers focused their attention on culminating protesters at Tuesday night's fourth Republican debate in Milwaukee to pressure candidates into answering their concerns. Leading Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O'Malley all tweeted out their support for the protesters Tuesday.

According to a recent survey, low-wage workers could bring a powerful presence to the voting booths in 2016's election, ATTN: reported.

"Low-wage workers across the country today are offering a glimpse of the power that comes with their unified voice, and candidates gearing up for the 2016 elections across the country should take note of their urgent calls for change," said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project.