California fast-food workers shift focus from minimum wage to unionizing

As fast-food and other low-wage workers rally Thursday across the country for a $15 minimum wage, the Fight for $15 campaign in California will be shifting its focus to another goal: unionizing.

Thousands of Los Angeles area workers from the service and homecare industries are expected to strike Thursday as part of Fight for $15 rallies in 320 U.S. cities and 40 countries, according to the Service Employees International Union, which has backed the campaign.

Those workers will march to a rally at a McDonald's in the Arts District around noon.

"The demand from the original strikes in 2012 was $15 and a union," said Mary Kay Henry, international president of the SEIU. "Underpaid workers in California are now on a path to $15, but we think the way we can make these jobs good jobs ... is through a union."

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill last week to gradually increase the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022. That same day, New York passed similar legislation to raise its hourly minimum to $15.

Campaign and union organizers said they will be march in solidarity with workers in other states without a $15 minimum wage.

“We’re not going to stop until all the workers get paid $15 and (can be part of) a union,” said Albina Ardon, 28, a Los Angeles resident who has worked as a cashier at a McDonald’s in Jefferson Park for 10 years. “I have three children, and I want them to do better than me.”

In a statement, the National Restaurant Assn. said restaurants gave workers a starting point in the industry.

"Dramatic increases to the starting wage — such as SEIU’s call for $15 — threaten those opportunities, particularly for those looking to get their foot in the door," said Christin Fernandez, spokeswoman for the trade organization.

A McDonald's spokeswoman noted in a statement that the restaurant chain raised its minimum wage for employees at company-owned restaurants and offers educational opportunities to workers.

"We proudly invest in the future of those who work in McDonald's restaurants," said Lisa McComb, company spokeswoman.

For more business news, follow @smasunaga.

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
66°