Scores of union and non-union workers in the San Francisco Bay Area joined tens of thousands across the nation as they mobilized on April 15 to demand a $15 minimum wage in the “largest protest by low-wage workers in US history” according to the Guardian. Local 21 was there as members showed up in force in Berkeley, Oakland and across the Bay to show solidarity for low-wage workers in #Fightfor15.
Actions were planned throughout the Bay Area all day. At 3 pm, workers and supporters gathered on Sproul Hall at UC Berkeley, where Ruth Atkin, Mayor of Emeryville and L21 member in Contra Costa County, addressed the crowd about Emeryville’s rising minimum wage while wearing her local 21 T-shirt. Non-profit organization East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy was there, signing Local 21 members in. Additional events were held in San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland.
About 12 members from Oakland’s bargaining committee joined hundreds of Service Employees International Union and National Nurses United as they gathered in front of McDonalds on Telegraph and 45th in Oakland. Horns honking in passing cars showed broad support. Urged by union workers by chants of El pueblo unido… andWe got your back! some line workers made an impromptu decision to walk off the job, forcing a few would-be customers to either wait for their burgers or to choose the healthier – and free options – that were being offered to the hundreds of workers gathered at the parking lot that day.
L21 members in Oakland’s bargaining unit stand with Robert Reich in the McDonald’s parking lot on Telegraph and 45th during the Oakland day of action to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Al Lujano of Oakland’s Administrative and Professionals (A&W) chapter spoke about the need for Local 21 to “step up” and support non-union workers fighting for a living wage in the midst of the rising cost of living in the Bay Area and the stress on the middle class.
“The divide between the have-nots and the have-everythings needs to narrow,” he said. “It’s a shame that people who work in this industry have to apply for food stamps or aid because they can’t make a living.” Standing in front of the McDonald’s entrance with other members, Lujano recalled what it was like when used to work for the fast food chain himself when he was sixteen.
“I used to come home smelling like I had been fried. And then getting my paycheck, with a third of it going to taxes, and there was nothing. It was degrading,” Lujano said.
Al Lujano of Oakland Administrative and Professionals remembers working at McDonald’s and reflected on the importance of unionization and a living wage for all workers.
The active Local 21 member went on to say that his past experience as a low-wage worker makes him appreciate the benefits of being in a union now, while underscoring the importance of unions like Local 21 to show solidarity with workers less fortunate.
“I think just being present here sends a strong message to folks who aren’t unionized that we support them,” he said. “Unions are strong for everyone, not just for ourselves.”
Christia Katz Mulvey, Sergeant in Arms for the A&W Chapter, stressed the need for Local 21 members to expand their horizons and see the bigger picture. ”We tend to be good little bureaucrats that get into our rut,” she said. “We need to get more active in promoting the rights of other folks as well.”