Fast-food workers and their supporters took to the streets again on Thursday, September 4, in the latest round of one-day strikes in the "Fight for 15" campaign for a $15 minimum hourly wage. Before the demonstration ended, several were behind bars.
"We have asked at the city council to 'raise up San Diego' [a slogan adopted by backers of a higher minimum wage] by a modest amount," councilwoman Marti Emerald told a crowd of about 150 that had gathered before dawn outside a McDonald's restaurant in City Heights. "But the business community here, led by Jerry Sanders and the chamber of commerce, is at war with the working poor."
Emerald and other speakers, including state assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, urged San Diegans not to sign a petition being circulated that would potentially jeopardize the minimum-wage increase (with incremental hikes to eventually reach $11.50 by 2017) and a provision for paid sick days passed by the city council and affirmed over a veto by mayor Kevin Faulconer. If petition-backers are successful, the ordinance will be put to a public vote.
After several speeches from the politicians and food-service workers participating in the strike, the group spilled into Fairmount Avenue and marched west on University Avenue toward a Burger King several blocks away.
"Are you ready for some action?" labor leader Richard Barrera asked the crowd upon arrival, receiving loud cheers of approval. "At this Burger King, we've got a courageous leader in our brother Elvis, who has stood up for himself and his coworkers. But just this morning, management kicked him out of his store because he had the courage to stand up."
No action ensued, however, as the store was locked up in anticipation of the gathering crowd, which then continued along University toward a Jack in the Box franchise, then onto the Interstate 15 freeway overpass.
Once there, 11 people, including nine strikers, were arrested for civil disobedience after locking arms to block traffic and chanting "I believe that we will win!"
"I’m tired of making $9 an hour. I can’t live off it. None of us can. I’m tired of being afraid I might be homeless because I can’t afford the rent here," said McDonald's worker Jay Ames, one of the arrested.