Protesters calling for livable wages and unionization at fast-food restaurants blocked a McDonald’s drive-thru in San Jose Thursday afternoon to demand fair treatment for low-wage workers.
Service Employees International Union Local 521, childcare providers and local McDonald’s workers rallied together to show unity among their professions, saying their work was undervalued and affecting the growth and development of their kids.
A group of about ten children led the picket line as dozens of protesters interrupted drive-thru service for about 25 minutes, chanting “Si se puede” and “McDonald’s, escucha, estamos en la lucha,” or “Listen up, McDonalds, we’re in the struggle!”
Juan Salcedo, an employee at the East Santa Clara Street McDonald’s for over 20 years, said he didn’t have enough money to retire.
Though San Jose has approved a $15 minimum wage beginning in 2019, he said he wasn’t fighting just for himself, but for all workers. McDonald’s employees refused to contact a manager or comment on the protest.
Advocates for the national “Fight for $15” movement rode into the protest on buses, part of a day-long action beginning at McDonald’s, then moving to the Community Child Care Council in San Jose and Google headquarters in Mountain View to demand the company balance its large construction projects with affordable housing.
Tina Sandoval, a mother of two who works at a McDonald’s in Richmond, said she has traveled to Detroit, Michigan; Flint, Michigan and protested at the company’s headquarters in Chicago.
“We’re not lovin’ it,” she said to the group of protesters, joking about the company’s slogan.
Sandoval said she feels intimidated at work after protesting her employer, but said she has not experienced any retaliation because she is legally protected by the First Amendment.
She felt emboldened after McDonald’s settled a wage theft lawsuit filed by 800 workers at five California restaurants in 2016. The company agreed to pay $3.75 million in back pay and legal fees.
Sandoval said a union is necessary to fight for employee rights like security. She works a graveyard shift and said she feels unsafe because she has no protection against people who stay in the restaurant at all hours of the night.
The Fight for $15 movement, backed by SEIU, has been attempting to successfully unionize fast-food workers for the last several years. Local child care workers joined in on the fight this afternoon, saying their services are necessary for both service and fast-food workers to do their jobs while ensuring their children are well-cared-for.
“Childcare workers need a chance to sit at the table,” care provider Patricia Moran said, calling for a union. “We are all connected…we are together in this fight.”
San Jose City Councilmember Don Rocha and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, encouraged protesters to keep fighting and be encouraged by a movement gaining national traction.
“I know that with the power that you have, in less than a month, we can be changing the direction of our country, Lofgren said, “Not only will the California legislature be on your side, the United States Congress will be on your side.”
The group of children ended the protest by taping their posters to the entrance doors of the McDonald’s. The boards stated, “Our parents need unions and good paying jobs,” to allow families to be present in each other’s lives, access healthcare and build safe homes.
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