Oakland Fast Food Workers Demand $15 Wage and Union Rights

Photo by Ken Epstein

Photo by Ken Epstein

A number of Oakland fast-food workers walked off their jobs Thursday to support demands for wage increases of $15 an hour and union rights at a rally inside the Oakland McDonald’s at Telegraph Avenue and 45th Street.

The rally at the Oakland McDonald’s included workers from Burger King, KFC and Wendy’s and was supported by workplace actions at over 150 cities nationwide.

“They always ask us what we’re fighting for – It’s $15 and a union. We’re not going to stop,” said Christopher Higgenbotham, a five-year employee at McDonald’s, speaking on a bullhorn at a rally of about 100 protesters who marched into the restaurant at 4514 Telegraph Ave a little after 7 a.m. Thursday morning.

“We do really hard work. A lot of people don’t understand what goes on behind the counter,” said Rhonesha Victor, a two-year KFC Taco Bell employee.

Also speaking was Mary Kay Henry, national president of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which is backing the fast-food organizing drive.

“Fast Food workers have inspired a movement across the economy,” said Henry, pointing to organizing efforts by home healthcare employees and other low-wage workers. Clergy, elected officials and community supporters joined fast-food workers on the strike lines.

For nearly two years, fast-food workers at McDonald’s and other chain restaurants have been joining together and going on strike, calling for $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation. A campaign started in New York City in November 2012, with 200 fast-food workers walking off their jobs.

Since then, the movement has spread to more than 150 cities in every region of the country, including the South. This new labor movement is challenging the myth that fast-food workers are teenagers looking for pocket change. Today’s workers are mothers and fathers struggling to raise children.

Follow the nationwide actions at www.strikefastfood.org and #StrikeFastFood.

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