Oakland police arrest 14 fast food protesters

More than a dozen protesters in Oakland were arrested Thursday afternoon during a march in support of pay raises and union rights for fast-food workers.

The protesters were arrested this afternoon following protests at the McDonald’s at 4514 Telegraph Ave. at 7 a.m. and near Oakland City Hall at 1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza at noon.

The Oakland Police Department is reporting 14 protesters were arrested at the intersection of Broadway and 14th Street after they sat down in the roadway.

Police spokesman Frank Bonifacio said the arrests were planned by protest organizers, who told officers 14 protesters were planning an act of civil disobedience and were willing to be arrested.

The nine men and five women protesters were taken into custody, transported to a mobile booking area, processed, cited and released, Bonifacio said. The protests impacted traffic until about 1 p.m., but there were no other reported incidents, injuries or damage to property.

Nick Jiles with Service Employees International Union said about 100 people showed up to support the protests, which are part of a movement demanding a $15 minimum wage and the right to form a union without the threat of retaliation.

Jiles said businesses the protesters visited remained open, but some employees walked out to support a $15 minimum wage:

“The goal is to continue to escalate the movement.”

Irvin Ortega, 25, works for a McDonald’s in Oakland and said he was scheduled to work today, but went on strike to support the movement. Ortega said his current hourly wage at the fast-food chain isn’t enough for him to support himself and his daughter and makes it impossible to plan a future that includes a college education.

Ortega said the protests are seeing a lot of support from the community:

“A lot of people are united and are showing courage. … People can make a change.”

The protests in Oakland came on the same day as fast-food workers across the country went on strike and demonstrated for better pay and the right to unionize without retaliation.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, said in a statement today that she applauds the actions taken by workers who are standing up for a living wage and the right to unionize:

“No one working full-time should live in poverty or have to work two jobs to meet ends meet. … To re-build our economy and expand the middle class, we need to empower workers with a living wage that will put more money in their pockets.”

McDonald’s released a statement this morning acknowledging the protests at restaurants across the country and classified them not as “strikes,” but as:

“… staged demonstrations in which people are being transported to fast-food restaurants. … The topic of minimum wage goes well beyond McDonald’s — it affects our country’s entire workforce. … McDonald’s and our independent franchisees support paying our valued employees fair wages aligned with a competitive marketplace.”