Jeff Smith noon, March 8
Food service workers rally for $15 minimum wage
Up to 100 protesters gathered downtown this morning in support of “Fight for 15,” a nationwide one-day strike by fast food workers in 35 cities calling for a $15 minimum wage and the right to join unions without employer retaliation.
“Everybody that works here has kids to support,” said Debra Flores, a striker who works at the Wendy’s restaurant on the corner of First and Broadway where the crowd convened. She said she also works a second job at a hookah lounge. “We need to make enough money to take care of our families and pay bills, and that can’t happen on minimum wage.”
Clare Crawford, president and executive director of the Center on Policy Initiatives, said that employers were unrealistic when denying the impact low wages had on workers’ lives, pointing to a controversial personal budget proposal released by McDonald’s recently suggesting that workers should have two nearly full-time jobs and budget only $600 per month for rent (the actual average in San Diego is closer to $1300, Crawford says) in order to survive on minimum wage.
“If you’re a single parent with one child, you need to earn between $21 and $26 an hour in order to afford the basic costs of living here in San Diego,” Crawford said. “These workers aren’t making anywhere near that, and they’re struggling.”
Several union groups, the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and representatives of the local taxi industry, which faces its own wage struggles were present offering support.
“People are still going to struggle because of the high cost of living in San Diego,” said labor leader Richard Barrera, but “if we paid workers a living wage, we would create 40,000 jobs. Why is that? Because workers would actually have enough money to pay their bills, to put money back into the local economy, to create jobs.”
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