The chanting was loud enough to be heard from a block away. Organizers and service workers, wearing the words “Fight for 15” across bright red t-shirts, gathered in front of the 24th and Mission McDonald’s Tuesday to join workers nationwide in protesting sexual harassment and unjust working conditions.
Tina Sandoval, a part-time employee at a McDonald’s in Richmond and member of the ‘Fight for 15’ campaign, pointed out the importance of fast food workers working together as a collective:
“Fight for 15 doesn’t stand only for minimum wage. It’s also rent control, health insurance for all, Black Lives Matter, immigrants rights, whatever struggle you’re out there for.”
Juan Carrillo, who works at a McDonald’s in San Jose, was also out in protest. Carrillo has worked at McDonald’s for much of the past two decades, starting first in New York state when the hourly pay was a meager $3.25. By the time he left the state, the pay was $7.50, still inadequate as a livable wage but a significant increase, Carrillo said:
“Fair is fifteen dollars an hour but unions are best because you can save the money … you can save the money every month.”
Carrillo explained that many coworkers didn’t know about the help unions could provide because many are undocumented:
“Unions help you with all your rights, unions are better … people don’t know about unions because they don’t have [citizenship] papers.”
Other Bay Area workers joined the protesters to support the national McDonald’s wildcat strike.
Cris Bailey, an employee at Burger King near Folsom, Calif., felt it was important to “help support each other” regardless of what chain he worked for:
“We want the higher ups to know that they can’t walk over everybody. They think they can do whatever and get away it and stuff like that. Just recognize our rights too.”
Burger King and McDonald’s have been highly resistant to workers’ attempts to unionize, which is why the Fight for 15 campaign is supporting a national strike in response to sexual harassment. Inadequate protections from harassment are associated with inadequate benefits for workers, in the broad context of labor rights.
Bailey explained the two goals go hand in hand in asserting workers’ rights:
“You got the union to help you with the rights and all that. They can kind of teach you too.”
In the wake of the Supreme Court Janus decision earlier this year, unionization and a higher livable wage for service workers becomes crucially important. In a National Restaurant Association poll reported on by The Intercept, a vast majority of the American public would support a raise of the minimum wage to $10, even if it means paying more for food.
“Sexual harassment at McDonald’s, it can happen at Burger King, it can happen at any county office job. I mean not just because you’re a low wage worker … it’s time not to keep silent. If I keep silent I’m giving that one percent the power to mistreat my sister right there.”