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

Workers rally outside Los Angeles City Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, to press demands for a minimum wage of $15 per hour.

Workers rally outside Los Angeles City Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, to press demands for a minimum wage of $15 per hour.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

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.

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