Business & Real Estate

Protests in Sacramento, nationwide demand $15 hourly wage

A rally, part of a nationwide campaign for raising the minimum wage, uses a McDonald’s in the Pocket area as a backdrop for its call to set a $15 wage.
A rally, part of a nationwide campaign for raising the minimum wage, uses a McDonald’s in the Pocket area as a backdrop for its call to set a $15 wage.

Demonstrators demanding $15 an hour in wages protested Wednesday morning at a south Sacramento McDonald’s restaurant, part of a nationwide wave of protests organized by labor groups and others.

Around 8:15 a.m., about 90 fast-food workers and their supporters blocked the drive-thru at the McDonald’s at Pocket Road and Interstate 5 for about 10 minutes before circling the fast-food restaurant twice while chanting slogans.

Later that morning, another group of workers, union activists and supporters marched from Crocker Park to Sacramento City Hall. Jim Zamora, a SEIU Local 1000 spokesman, estimated the crowd reached about 400 by the time it arrived at City Hall.

In the past two years, minimum-wage workers and their allies have mounted demonstrations across the country. Nationwide, workers say that they can’t support themselves on the current federal minimum wage of $7.25.

The minimum wage in California is $9 and will rise to $10 on Jan. 1, 2016. The morning demonstration drew strong support from SEIU Local 1000 members.

Two McDonald’s workers from the Pocket restaurant, Naomi Sevilla and Ka Lia Vang, said they walked off their jobs in support of the $15-an-hour movement.

Vang, who said she makes $9 an hour, has worked two years at McDonald’s. She also has a second job at another restaurant.

“I walked out to show support,” said Vang, who said it’s hard to pay for college textbooks, car maintenance and help her parents on her current wages.

“We respect people’s right to peacefully protest, and our restaurants remain open every day with the focus on providing an exceptional experience for our customers,” Terri Hickey, a McDonald’s spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement from the company’s headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill.

Recently, McDonald’s USA announced a wage increase and paid time off for employees at its company-owned restaurants and also expanded educational opportunities for eligible employees at all McDonald’s restaurants.

“This is an important and meaningful first step as we continue to look at opportunities that will make a difference for employees,” Hickey said in the email.

McDonald’s also noted that about 90 percent of the company’s U.S. restaurants are independently owned and operated by franchisees who set their own wages, according to job level and local and federal laws.

Holly Dias, a Burger King cook at Arden Fair mall in Sacramento, said that she attended the morning demonstration at McDonald’s because a $15-an-hour wage would make a huge difference in her life.

“I would be able to pay bills, have a place of my own, transportation,” she said. “I wouldn’t have to live paycheck-to-paycheck. I’d be able to save money and go to school.”

Dias said she earns $9.25 an hour and has worked at Burger King since 2008.

While some argue that fast food jobs are not intended to be long-term employment, Dias said minimum wage jobs are the only ones available.

“When the recession hit a couple of years ago, it was minimum wage jobs that were created,” she said. “To support our families, we have to work. So what do we do? We get a job. Minimum wage is where it is at if you want a job.”

Organizers say protests for higher pay for low-wage workers were planned Wednesday for more than 230 U.S. cities and college campuses, as well as dozens of cities overseas. Among those who joined the nationwide day of protests were airport workers, Wal-Mart workers and adjunct college professors.

Call The Bee’s Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079.

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