Demonstrations from fast-food workers involved in the "Fight for 15" campaign (which seeks to unionize food-service jobs and set a wage floor of $15 per hour) continue to ramp up, as a crowd of over 100 workers and sympathizers invaded three Burger King restaurants around the county on May 16.
After visiting two other restaurants on Thursday morning, workers descended on a Clairemont location shortly after noon. Prior to the crowd's arrival, a pair of managers stood warily at the door, keeping watch on the pair of organizers who had arrived early and sought shade at the far end of the parking lot.
Then the protesters, significantly larger in number than at a recent demonstration against a nearby Taco Bell and perhaps benefitting from even better turnout than at the August 2013 campaign kickoff, began to arrive.
"Hold your burgers, hold your fries, make our wages super-sized!" chanted the crowd as they poured across the parking lot and into the restaurant, quickly taking over the dining room despite being briefly delayed by the door guards.
"You may not realize it, but you will all make history today," intoned labor leader Mickey Kasparian, addressing the workers on duty in the restaurant. "You deserve better wages. You all know that."
An elderly patron leaving the restaurant shouted to workers that they would "deserve more money when you learn to speak English" as another speaker addressed the workers using a bullhorn in Spanish.
Outside, Burger King employee Anthony explained that he had been working as a cashier for the chain for about 11 months, at a base wage of $8 per hour. He's been in the industry, however, for "16 or 17 years" and has been struggling to receive shift assignments of more than 15 hours per week.
"We're looking for fair wages, better respect from management, and more opportunities," Anthony said.
Maritza Kaser, another striking Burger King employee, explained that while others could enter the restaurant to demonstrate, employees put their jobs at even greater risk being caught protesting inside a store, leaving two dozen or so other current fast-food workers outside with her and Anthony.
"I live in my car, sometimes in hotels," Kaser said. "And I'm tired of working for eight hours for that. I've been busting my ass, working here for over three years." She said she used to receive 40 hours of work per week but recently has been unable to get managers to schedule her for full-time.
"They're cutting everyone's hours," Kaser says. "I have no idea why. I can't live on $200 per week."
Kaser further alleges that wage theft is an issue at her store, common in an industry where 84 percent of workers say they haven't been paid for work performed.
"If [management] sees people are going into overtime, they make them clock out and continue to work," says Kaser. "It's against the law, but a lot of workers here don't know their rights." She said that some of the employees had tried to advise their peers that such practice was illegal, but many were "too scared" of negative repercussions.
The San Diego actions were part of a broader one-day strike, with food-service employees demonstrating in 150 cities nationwide and at over 230 across the globe, according to a release from organizers.